Drama The Filth issue
In Search of Lost Soap: A Playlet
By Wayne Koestenbaum
an outdoor market in Marseille
Soap Vendor, whose name, we eventually learn, is Blaise Orange
Loïc, the soap vendor’s assistant
SOAP VENDOR: What can I offer you in the soap department?
MARCELLO MASTROIANNI: I’m resting between roles. Soap might not be my first priority.
VENDOR: Stars need to stay clean.
MARCELLO: Dirt has been my calling card.
VENDOR: Rose? Chèvrefeuille? Muguet? Citron vert?
MARCELLO: A deep blue annihilating scent suits my mood.
VENDOR: Outremer? The English call it ultramarine.
VENDOR: In La dolce vita, you bore witness to the void.
MARCELLO: I’m beyond voids now. I want solidity.
VENDOR: When you bathe? Or when you’re dressed?
MARCELLO: Penthouse magazine is running a feature about me.
VENDOR: Are you nude?
MARCELLO: Yes, but underwater.
VENDOR: Can a reader glimpse your private parts?
MARCELLO: The water, a complicated color between ultramarine and toilet paper blue, provides a modesty shield.
VENDOR: Smell this soap. Our newest scent. Bark. L’écorce.
MARCELLO: It’s very masculine.
A woman approaches the soap vendor’s booth.
JUDY GARLAND: These soaps are much more beautiful than the soaps I wasted my money on in London.
MARCELLO: Excuse me, are you Judy Garland?
JUDY: Do I look like Savonarola?
MARCELLO: Let me buy you a bar of soap. Any scent
JUDY: To celebrate our accidental rendezvous?
MARCELLO: I want to celebrate coincidence in general.
VENDOR: Am I included in the celebration?
JUDY: You’re like the dirigible in the conversation. You float by, with a careless demeanor. And yet you’re the deus ex machina.
VENDOR: I’m planning to shut down my soap business by September. Meanwhile, I’m trying to take advantage of the summer crowds.
MARCELLO: Perhaps Miss Garland would be interested in your new bark soap?
JUDY: I want a soap that smells like Ma Griffe, by Carven. Carnation.
VENDOR: Must it be an exact match, or do you tolerate deviation?
MARCELLO: Perhaps something more extravagant for Miss Garland?
JUDY: Extravagance got me fired from Annie Get Your Gun.
VENDOR: Monsieur Mastroianni mentioned voids a few minutes ago. Before your sudden arrival on the scene.
MARCELLO: Some soaps are filled with void.
VENDOR: Because you’re seeking solidity, you’ll want to avoid the void soaps.
JUDY: It’s as if our sudden meeting in Marseille were a kind of Swiss cheese — Gruyère, if you will.
MARCELLO: A meeting filled with holes? A strange-tasting encounter?
VENDOR: Gruyère is an overrated cheese. I prefer Brousse.
JUDY: I had Brousse last night, after my eleven o’clock show. The Brousse was unpleasantly lumpy.
MARCELLO: That sudden wind! I almost got knocked over. Miss Garland, how did you manage to stay standing?
VENDOR: The mistral of Marseille affects men more strongly than women.
JUDY: I didn’t sense anything powerful. Just a pleasant stirring.
MARCELLO: I feel it again. That wind. A terrible force.
VENDOR: You develop sea legs — or mistral legs — if you live here long enough.
JUDY: I’m proud to announce that I have mistral legs.
VENDOR: I’d love to get a photo of the three of us together. Let me ask my assistant, Loïc, to take a shot.
Loïc emerges from the back of the soap vendor’s booth.
LOÏC: We have only two exposures left in this roll, and the camera shop is closed for the weekend. The Brousse inspector is coming tomorrow morning, and I want to take his picture.
JUDY: Save your precious film for the cheese inspector.
MARCELLO: I’ll be back next summer, and you can take my picture then. Perhaps Miss Garland also plans to be here next summer?
JUDY: I don’t have a predictable schedule.
VENDOR: After September, I’ll be closed for good.
MARCELLO: Today, then, from my point of view, is the funeral of your soap booth.
JUDY: The death of the booth.
VENDOR: I plan to pursue other pleasures.
MARCELLO: But no more soap.
JUDY: Once you leave a job, you want to “wash it right out of your hair,” as the song goes.
MARCELLO: Do you want to practice closing down your booth?
JUDY: No. Don’t practice the scene. Save your melodrama for the day itself. You don’t want the performance to come across as stale when you say goodbye to your booth.
VENDOR: My tears will be real.
MARCELLO: It’s the least we can do, Miss Garland and I, to buy a dozen bars of soap each.
JUDY: Precisely. That’s how we do funeral.
VENDOR: It’s not a funeral.
JUDY: Funeral is in the eye of the beholder.
MARCELLO: There’s that wind again. I’m exhausted from battling it.
JUDY: Twelve bars of carnation soap please.
MARCELLO: And I will opt for bark. Twelve bars.
JUDY: The tedium of school!
MARCELLO: Funerals are often tedious, despite the energizing effects of sorrow.
LOÏC: I am required by profession to be the bearer of
MARCELLO: Speak up, young man.
LOÏC: This soap shack is going out of business because my master is on the verge of death.
VENDOR: I could live forever, despite what the doctors say.
JUDY: We’re all phoenixes.
MARCELLO: I’m still in my first flush of fame.
JUDY: I have a sudden wish to take Loïc under my wing and protect him from future misfortune.
VENDOR: Am I the embodiment of Loïc’s misfortune?
MARCELLO: Is it still the funeral of the booth, or have we moved on to a different scene?
JUDY: Liza’s flying in to Nice tomorrow night. That’s my next scene.
VENDOR: I don’t have a next scene.
LOÏC: I want to stay within the confines of this current scene.
JUDY: Loïc, come join Liza and me in Nice.
LOÏC: May I request a per diem?
MARCELLO: That wind again! You all seem oblivious to its effect.
JUDY: The mistral seems to have singled you out for punishment.
VENDOR: Do you deserve punishment, Mr. Mastroianni, or is the wind’s action arbitrary?
MARCELLO: Nothing in this scene is arbitrary… Miss Garland, I know of a private beach a few miles north of here, along the coast.
VENDOR: Nudism and naturism are rife in the Midi.
LOÏC: I haven’t yet partaken of nudism.
JUDY: You’re too young.
MARCELLO: Miss Garland and I would like our two dozen bars of soap, if you please.
JUDY: And then we’ll head for that nude beach.
LOÏC: Am I still invited to Nice tomorrow, to meet Liza?
MARCELLO: Come with us to the beach, Loïc.
VENDOR: Here are your twelve bars of bark. And here are your twelve bars of carnation.
MARCELLO: Monsieur, if you regain your health, I invite you to be my guest at Cannes.
VENDOR: I accept your generous offer.
JUDY: You shouldn’t accept offers so quickly. Women will think less of you.
VENDOR: I am beyond the court of public opinion.
JUDY: Mr. Soap Man, do you have a name?
MARCELLO: How rude of us! We took you for granted as a prop. A diving board, as it were, into the pool of coincidence.
LOÏC: His name is Blaise Orange.
BLAISE: In lycée, all the boys laughed at me because of my surname.
JUDY: You requited them for their mockery by becoming a successful soap vendor.
LOÏC: Actually, Blaise Orange is on the verge of death.
JUDY: It’s the funeral right now.
MARCELLO: Death of a booth.
JUDY: Arthur Miller wanted to rewrite Death of a Salesman for me. He proposed calling it Death of a Shopgirl.
MARCELLO: You found it demeaning?
JUDY: Most roles are demeaning, whether or not disparagement appears in the title.
MARCELLO: Chaplin did vagabonds. You can do shopgirls.
LOÏC: I’m going home now to pack my bags for the trip to Nice tomorrow.
MARCELLO: Bring a swimsuit, in case we decide to forgo the nude beach.
JUDY: We won’t forgo it.
BLAISE: And I will stay behind and keep shop.
MARCELLO: Your position, for now, is stable.
JUDY: Come September, everything will fall apart.
BLAISE: Thank you for coming to the funeral.
MARCELLO: Miss Garland and I made the funeral possible.
JUDY: We’re the underwriters, if not the undertakers.
LOÏC: And I am the messenger. Or the chorus.
MARCELLO: I’m worn down by the mistral, but I’m still clothed, so I can claim the high road of decency.
JUDY: The funeral portion of the afternoon is finished.
MARCELLO: We can thank Loïc for catalyzing funeral.
JUDY: And we can thank Loïc for catalyzing nudism.
LOÏC: I feel suddenly important, though for most of the afternoon I’ve been ignored.
BLAISE: I’m planning to die extremely slowly. By next year I may still be alive to meet you all in Cannes.
MARCELLO: I stumbled onto this booth in a moment of boredom. But I seem to have found magic.
BLAISE: Magic in the form of Judy Garland?
MARCELLO: Magic in the form of soap, and all the coincidences that soap inaugurates.
JUDY: I’m accustomed to playing second fiddle to soap. I’m the side effect of soap.
LOÏC: I will be modest on the beach. I promise to behave.
BLAISE: I can vouch for Loïc. I’ve never had an apprentice more chaste, more dutiful.
LOÏC: As the rising star du jour, and as the side effect of soap, a role I share with Miss Garland, I hereby adjourn the meeting.