A Play in Two Acts (Excerpt)

Christmas Games

Young people wearing the masks of Christmas Mummers arrive on stage and throughout the auditorium. (In later parts of the performance the motifs of this Christmas mumming will recur.) While Shepherds ring the bells and playfully frighten the audience, the actors run on stage. When the King stops, silence falls.

 King (chanting) Glory be to Christ
 In the heights of heaven
 Who has given good health
 To all ye in this demesne,
 Let Him hold and keep you
 In everlasting joy. 

(Joseph, Mary and the Angel enter. Joseph bangs his stick three times on the stage.)

 Joseph (chanting) Good Master of the house
 Open up your high gates
 Let in your well-meaning
 Visitor with grey hair.
 The life-giving nurse of
 The ruler of this world
 Has become exhausted
 In this endless journey. 

(The King’s Servant looks at the King who nods.)

King’s Servant (chanting) Do come in, my good friends
 Warm yourselves up a bit.

(They enter accompanied by bells.)

 Mária (chanting) O good Lord of Heavens
 Saviour of the whole world,
 Look down from Your great height
 Upon your earthly servant
 And don’t abandon us
 On our exile journey.

(During the song, Young Women slide down onto the stage from the left and right balconies. All sing together. Between the verses the Shepherds ring their bells.)

 Song (all) The Virgin bore a Son
 Who brings heavenly joy.
 Shepherds, be all ye happy
 Our Saviour has descended to Earth.
 All ye rejoice.
 Angel Gloria! Gloria!
 In ex-Celsius day-o. 

(The sound of a huge avalanche. The chanting breaks off. The players shrivel with fright and after the danger has passed they steal away as if walking on the tips of the blades of grass.)

 Song Bird of Ice! Bird of Ice!
 Red-headed, blue bird of Ice.
 If you had your wings to fly
 With a pedestrian, why did you side?
 Bird of Ice! Bird of Ice!
 In search of your other half,
 If you had your wings to fly
 With a pedestrian, why did you side? 

Act 1

The Hargita Mountains in Transylvania.
It is Advent.

(Vencel Bódi’s log house in the Hargita Mountains at the head of a chasm called “Little Destruction”. The house, unusually for mountain houses, has lots of windows and outside everything is covered with snow. No walls, huge fir trees blanketed with snow and pale blue, organ tube-shaped, yard-long icicles hang from the eaves. When the wind blows, these organ tubes make music but sometimes they shriek, screech and groan. Above and to the right from the corner of the house there is a dizzying chasm in the rocks, called “Great Destruction”, also covered by snow. At the front of the house is Bódi’s workshop. On the walls are six wrought iron colourful lamps of different sizes and a hunting rifle. Open fireplace, table, sofa and a bed. In the back of the house is his bedroom. Those who enter from left, arrive via the path through “Little Destruction”. When the curtain rises, Bódi and Dániel, the Miracle-Seer struggle towards the house on the rising path of “Little Destruction”. Sometimes they stop to push the snow away, other times they fall to their knees in the snow.)

 Bódi (carries a newly cut Christmas tree under his arm and an axe in his right hand.)
 Now, Dániel, that one I can hardly believe. Your name may be miracleseer but I still say that you have added to it mightily.
 Dániel (an axe in his right hand, runs the words together.) On my honour, Lord God the Father.
 Bódi Shusssssh. Softer.
 Dániel If you don’t believe me, who has risen from the dead, ask Antal…
 Bódi St Antal?
 Dániel Antal Stég. On my honour Lord…
 Bódi Shusssssh. Softer for God’s sake! Do you want to die for a second time? Great Destruction is above your head and your’re shouting.
 Dániel Earlier, we were allowed to shout. Only shooting was forbidden.
 Bódi Now, both are forbidden.
 Dániel Then what is allowed?
 Bódi Everything apart from what is not.
 (A distant sound of an avalanche.)
 Dániel (crosses himself.) Lord save us from avalanches and temptation.
 Bódi You did not include the temptation of shouting.
 Dániel He knows well enough what right He took away from us.
 Bódi Then behave accordingly. (He sees that Dániel wants to cough.) Into your cap! Into your cap!
 Dániel (coughs into his cap while wolves howl in the distance.) And are they allowed?
 Bódi Wolves. They don’t have caps. And then what happened?
 Dániel Well, when this girl, this Réka turned into a bird, instead of alighting on Antal Stég’s shoulder or hat, she walked by the young lad’s side. She just talked up to him from the snow and he, like Moses on the mountain, talked back, tossed down a work or two to her. But I was some distance away, so I couldn’t understand what they said.
 Bódi What kind of bird was it?
 Dániel It was not bigger than a bride-bird. Like that one there.
 Bódi Softer, for God’s sake! I didn’t ask you what size it was. Only what kind?
 Dániel Bright and lively. Lately, I went to examine her footprints in the snow next to those of the iron-shod boots of this gamekeeper, Antal Stég. Her footprint was the shape of a small white cruciform pendant. Tiptip-tip, and the other’s shoop shoop.
 Bódi Tip-tip-tip, shoop. Tell me the colour, man.
 Dániel As far as I could make out in the sparkling whiteness, she was azure blue with a whiff of green and the head as far as I could see it from the side was red, blue and white.
 Bódi The beak?
 Dániel Rather big. It looked as if it was not made for singing but rather for
 Bódi For grabbing what?
 Dániel Anything it would like. 
 Bódi And the head was also bigger than a bride-bird’s? She probably wore a striped headscarf over her hair-bun.
 Dániel You got it.
 Bódi It was a Bird of Ice. Réka turned into a Bird of Ice. But that includes what you threw in.
 Dániel And what would that be?
 Bódi How could the two of them walk side by side?
 Dániel By Antal’s going slowly while Réka hopped quickly to catch up. That’s how they were able to talk. I could only hear a weak cry from the bird: “Where are you taking me, Antal? Where are you taking me?”
 Bódi Where could he take her?
 Dániel That’s exactly what we don’t yet know.
 Bódi Because what you’re saying is incredible – that they would’ve walked side by side. That bird doesn’t like to walk in the deep snow and especially not the Bird of Ice. It certainly should’ve alighted on Antal Stég’s shoulder or hat. Réka is not the sort of creature who once she has wings, wouldn’t fly.
 Dániel She didn’t fly.
 Bódi You are just talking.
 Dániel Here’s the evidence: Do you see this footprint?
 Bódi I do.
 Dániel Shoop-shoop. This belongs to Antal Stég. And this little white cruciform pendant, tip-tip-tip, belongs to the Bird of Ice.
 Bódi Yes, you’re right.
 Dániel But let’s see where it leads. Now my good friend, Vencel, it leads into the direction of your house.
 Bódi Towards my house? I wouldn’t have thought so. But let’s see. 

(They go towards the door of the house on all fours following the footprints.)

 Dániel Here’s the end. Look, the bird’s footprints stop. That’s where the tragedy occurred. Antal Stég slipped a bit. The bird gave a few hops and then it was all over.
 Bódi Did she fly away?
 Dániel She was caught.
 Bódi Really?
 Dániel She was caught and taken into the house.
 Bódi Which house?
 Dániel Which house! We’re two hours’ walk from the village; between us only God and Great Destruction; around us only wilderness and wolves howling; and he’s asking “which house?” It should’ve been the House of God. An honest man would take his fiancée there. And Réka was Antal Stég’s engaged fiancée, but Vencel, he didn’t take her there. But
 in here, into your house. And not for the first time, Vencel. And if possible, don’t behave like and old woman.
 Bódi Me, like an old woman? Me who has killed seven bears with this small
 axe. Like an old woman. Say that again.
 Dániel Shush. Don’t let go of your common sense, man. I didn’t doubt your bravery. I said like an old woman. You only remember what you want to. The rest you forget.
 Bódi What did I forget?
 Dániel That Antal Stég took the Bird of Ice here into your house.
 Bódi That’s not forgotten. But he didn’t take her.
 Dániel What then?
 Bódi He brought her. I was stirring up some polenta when Antal Stég knocked on the door. He was carrying Réka in his arms. But no more questions. What happened after that that’s their business.
 Dániel (aloud) Theirs only?
 Bódi Who else’s?
 Dániel You know very well. Vencel. My son’s. My son, Gábor.
 Bódi He’s no longer involved.
 Dániel You know, don’t you, that they loved each other since childhood.
 Bódi Childhood love is like winter in May. It barely arrives before it goes.
 Dániel This was not like that, Vencel. You know that my son Gábor once
 died for this… for this Bird of Ice.

Translated by Csilla Bertha and Donald E. Morse

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