Excerpt: Five Frozen Embryos

[NOTE: Victorian costume and setting]

FEMALE 1: People can be very sensitive—about things like that.

FEMALE 2: Exactly.

FEMALE 1: Wars have been fought over less.

FEMALE 2: Thousands of people butchered—over things like the sanctity of life.

FEMALE 1: Yes. Very sensitive.

FEMALE 2: Conception. Sex. Religion. Marriage. These are issues of sanctity.

FEMALE 1: Of values and tradition. One man, one woman. That’s in the Bible too.

FEMALE 2: Well—yes.

FEMALE 1: What?

FEMALE 2: Well, I mean—the Bible. You know.

FEMALE 1: What?

FEMALE 2: We don’t want to insult people.

FEMALE 1: No, of course not. What?

FEMALE 2: Well, I mean, one man, one woman. I mean—

FEMALE 1: What?

FEMALE 2: Well, I mean the harems.

FEMALE 1: Who?

FEMALE 2: Harems.

FEMALE 1: Oh, harems.

FEMALE 2: Solomon and his 700 wives. David and that business with Bathsheba. Abraham and Sarah—and then what’s her name—Hagar—the other one who had Ishmael.

FEMALE 1: Yes.

FEMALE 2: You know, of course, the Durante routine.


FEMALE 2: Shall I?

FEMALE 1: Please.

FEMALE 2: The sultan of Pasha offers Jimmy Durante his harem of 500 beautiful wives.

FEMALE 1: And what does he do?

FEMALE 2: He turns them down.

FEMALE 1: Durante?

FEMALE 2: Yes.

FEMALE 1: Why?

FEMALE 2: Because when he gets up in the morning—

FEMALE 1: Durante?

FEMALE 2: Yes. He doesn’t want to find a thousand stockings hanging in the
bathroom. [She attempts a Durante impersonation.] Not Durante! [Impersonation off.] My impersonation is inadequate, the joke is hysterical.

FEMALE 1: I have no doubt.

FEMALE 2: Jesus: 2,000 years of Judo—

FEMALE 1: Judeo—

FEMALE 2: What?

FEMALE 1: Christian—

FEMALE 2: Yes, tradition.

FEMALE 1: At least in regards to marriage. Where were we?

FEMALE 2: Two thousand years of marriage. Christ! More like 5,000 years. Wouldn’t you say? I mean if you include the polygamous.

FEMALE 1: Who knows? Who cares? Though I’m certain a credible conjecture is available.

FEMALE 2: All those years of marriage. I wonder.

FEMALE 1: What?

FEMALE 2: In all those years of marriage—those five—

FEMALE 1: At least.

FEMALE 2: Thousand years of marriage—I wonder.

FEMALE 1: What?

FEMALE 2: How many marriages—would you say—there have been in those—what is it, five—

FEMALE 1: At least.

FEMALE 2: Thousand years of marriage?

FEMALE 1: You mean worldwide?

FEMALE 2: The entire globe.

FEMALE 1: Good Lord!

FEMALE 2: If we imagine that marriage—in some form or another—and here we
may be contemplating not five, but 10, 20, 30,000 years of marriage—

FEMALE 1: Oh, dear God.

FEMALE 2: However long the species has existed. Or even before. For surely
marriage—such a thing as marriage—may well have predated the ascent of what we invariably call “man.”

FEMALE 1: I recall the pictures of the Neanderthal—from my elementary school science book. They were depicted as nuclear families.

FEMALE 2: Even if such a depiction is specious, might we not assume that marriage—in some form or other—did exist in the Neanderthal, in homo habilis, homo erectus. Homo whoever. And if it did—

FEMALE 1: Yes?

FEMALE 2: How many marriages—do you think—in all those thousands and thousands of years of marriage?

FEMALE 1: I can’t even begin to imagine. Billions.

FEMALE 2: Billions? Trillions. Zillions.

FEMALE 1: Oh, heavens!

FEMALE 2: Zillions and zillions of marriages. Including of course remarriage. Which in itself is an interesting topic. I mean, how long after the conception of marriage, I wonder, was the inception of divorce?

FEMALE 1: I can’t imagine.

FEMALE 2: It was probably the same day. But anyway.

FEMALE 1: I think it inestimable.

FEMALE 2: What?

FEMALE 1: The number of marriages—in the possibly millions of years of marriage.

FEMALE 2: Well, let’s not get carried away—millions of years. The point is—

FEMALE 1: Yes?

FEMALE 2: Given the state of the world—as it is today—at any time past—given the children these marriages produce—who when grown to adulthood—or even before—enter joyfully—or are taken forcefully into marriage—as well as those who for one reason or another do not or cannot enter into marriage—but who through fornication produce children nonetheless—all these children—including those who, for reasons of poverty or neglect—pass not into adulthood, but are passed away long before—like those of the female sex—who to this day in certain cultures of the earth are snuffed in their infancy—in their cradles—what one might call post-term abortion—lest they live to be furnished with a dowry before they can be given off into marriage to a husband onto whose spirit leadership they shall graciously submit themselves—or if not, be abandoned into prostitution—or some such miserable fate—all these marriages—one man, one woman—or one man, six women—that produce these children—how many of these marriages—given the evidence of the world—as we have it before us—how many of these sacred unions are—I wonder—expressive of anything even remotely approaching sanctity?
[They look at each other. They laugh.]

FEMALE 1: I see your point. Where were we?

FIVE FROZEN EMBRYOS was presented as part of the 2002 New York International Fringe Festival. It was directed by Jon Schumacher. The complete text is published in PLAY A JOURNAL OF PLAYS (Issue 1).


David Greenspan