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CAST OF CHARACTERS

ALEJANDRA VARGAS and KARLA SANTOS: Two women in their forties, married for more than a decade. 

CIVIL SERVANT: Social worker for the Ministry of Family. Fifty-something, with the face of a twenty-year-old.   

OFIDIO: Alejandra’s administrative assistant. 

 

BEAT 4 

(KARLA enters. ALEJANDRA grabs a chair and turns it toward the public. KARLA grabs a chair herself and places it very close to ALEJANDRA’s, facing the public, who are now acting as the adoption panel.

ALEJANDRA: I don’t understand the question. Can you repeat it? 

KARLA: Excuse us. We are very nervous. 

ALEJANDRA: A bit nervous. 

KARLA: That’s very interesting that you find it interesting that we’re nervous. 

ALEJANDRA: We are making history. Just one step away from being approved to adopt, and you don’t think there’s any room for nerves. 

KARLA: Maybe you’re right. 

ALEJANDRA: They’re right about what?  

KARLA: No amount of nerves can stand this. 

ALEJANDRA: We’re not saying that you’re wrong. 

KARLA: Not at all. Raising children requires nerves of steel. 

ALEJANDRA: Karla and I have what it takes. You all already know that. You’ve seen our psychological profiles. 

KARLA: The ones that show we have nerves of steel. 

ALEJANDRA: But also a lot of love and compassion to offer. 

KARLA: We know that you know everything about us. 

ALEJANDRA: But not this. Ofidio. (Like a tyrant, she snaps her fingers at OFIDIO. OFIDIO comes running in, servile, and hands her a tower of documents. OFIDIO exits.) This isn’t everything, Ofidio. Bring the rest. (OFIDIO enters with another tower of documents. He exits.) Have you read these academic studies on the neutrality of sexual orientation on the ability to raise children? There are 115,064 homes with same-sex parents in the United States. Twenty-two percent . . .  

KARLA: Translate, honey. 

ALEJANDRA: (To KARLA) They understand. (To the adoption panel) Isn’t that right? 

KARLA: If they haven’t understood after three years’ worth of evaluations, ten witness testimonies, dozens of declarations under oath, and who knows how many stamped receipts, then they’ll never understand. 

ALEJANDRA: (To KARLA): Two years.  

KARLA: Actually, four. 

ALEJANDRA: We aren’t complaining about the services provided by your workers. 

KARLA: All your sexual workers have been . . .  

ALEJANDRA: Social workers. 

KARLA: The socialest. 

ALEJANDRA: Not even Che Guevara repeating the revolution in Africa can compare. 

KARLA: Social and efficient. Very speedy with their work. They go straight to the point without any unnecessary precautions. 

ALEJANDRA: Just like us. Would you like me to leave you a copy of the studies? The results are irrefutable. Ten percent . . .  

(The CIVIL SERVANT walks over from the sandbox carrying a bucket full of sand, toys, and a toy shovel, places it downstage right, diagonal to the chairs where ALEJANDRA and KARLA sit, and starts to walk toward them.

KARLA: Have you read enough? We understand. That means you can finally make a decision on whether we are capable of being parents, on whether we have the capacity to raise a child. 

ALEJANDRA: The capability of raising a child. 

KARLA. Did you see? Alejandra here will show the child how to speak properly. I don’t even know how to use a thesaurus. The basics. Yesterday, I told the internet technician that the network lacked enough capacity.  

ALEJANDRA: In that case, you would use capacity. 

KARLA: Capacity, of course, not capability. Do you see? We will teach the child to speak in the style of the Oxford Dictionary. Isn’t that true? I’ll teach him something else. I’ll teach him how to play . . . soccer. 

ALEJANDRA: And baseball, and karate, and tennis. 

KARLA: Even though we don’t like sports. 

ALEJANDRA: We love them. 

KARLA: They fascinate us. 

ALEJANDRA: We will teach him to play all the sports. 

KARLA: And to tell dumb jokes, too, and to shop for the best deals in the city. 

ALEJANDRA: No deals. 

KARLA: To waste money like a real macho man. (The CIVIL SERVANT stands behind KARLA and ALEJANDRA.) Sorry. We explained and responded, but what was the question again? 

 

BEAT 5 

CIVIL SERVANT (In a show of power, he places his hands on the crowns of the heads of ALEJANDRA and KARLA. They do not look at him. They continue looking at the public): I didn’t ask you a question. I was merely commenting on how difficult it is to tell the difference between heroism and sedition. The only difference is the masks.   

ALEJANDRA: The same happens with sedition and perversion. I’m just saying. 

CIVIL SERVANT: I should clarify. This is my personal opinion. (Standing behind them, he lowers his head and torso, and then, like a snake, he inserts himself between them. He looks at KARLA’s outfit, retreats, and then approaches her from the right, touching her arm to feel her clothes. KARLA becomes uncomfortable. ALEJANDRA is on the verge of stopping him. KARLA looks at her and raises her hand to stop her) Is this shirt new? It’s beautiful. It complements your skin tone. Is it a cotton-poly blend? I love it. Look at mine. Touch it. Don’t look at me like that. It’s just so you can feel the linen, with a touch of silk. (He removes himself from between them). I have to stand like this, look—I’m all rigid so it won’t wrinkle. That’s because I am now president of this panel and of another committee, and am in charge of implementing government policies. My days as a hippie, punk, and postpunk all went the way of the abacus. Rhythm became bureaucratic. One day you’re a revolutionary, and the next you’re a civil servant. 

KARLA: (She takes ALEJANDRA’s tower of documents and gives them to the CIVIL SERVANT. ALEJANDRA looks reluctant, but KARLA convinces her with one look.) We only wanted to know what more you needed in order to make a decision.  

CIVIL SERVANT (He takes the documents, and while delivering his monologue, he looks at them without reading them, and then throws the folders, rips up the documents, and throws them on the floor. ALEJANDRA and KARLA at first appear confused, and then infuriated. KARLA calms ALEJANDRA by softly touching her hair.): We will never . . . ever have what we need in order to make this decision. That’s my opinion. I don’t know what the rest of the panel thinks. (Pointing to the public) Nothing. Everyone around here agrees and stays silent. We come in through that door, pick up our masks, and we put them on. We sit here where we read and listen to a boring script that makes no sense. It’s written by analysts without the guts to be politicians. Through good luck or rotten luck, today they named me president of the panel. I am the tautological director who reminds everyone of the order and weight that I carry within the script. That’s why I must clarify that I made a personal comment, mine, as in my own. It’s my way of saying that the final decision is predictable and the process needs spicing up. That’s why someone must mount the horse bareback and insinuate that you consider your actions seditious.  

ALEJANDRA: Spicing up? 

KARLA: Can you translate for me, honey? 

CIVIL SERVANT (Speaking to the public, he sits on the floor with his bucket and plays with the sand and little stones, and empties it onto the floor and constructs little piles using the shovel.): We need to be straightforward with these people. What I mean to say is that other parents come to this panel in order to provide a home for a child in need. (To KARLA and ALEJANDRA.) You come here looking to sow the seeds of change.  

ALEJANDRA: Name? 

CIVIL SERVANT: Whose? 

ALEJANDRA: What’s your name? 

CIVIL SERVANT: What does it matter, Ms. Vargas? 

KARLA: What Ms. Vargas means to say is that personal opinions always come with spit and sweat included. After exchanging these kinds of fluids, it only makes sense to ask your name. 

CIVIL SERVANT (He addresses the public, now the adoption panel): Don’t judge them. That’s how they are. I have decades of experience dealing with women like these. What they’re saying is true. (He plays with the sand without looking at anyone) They’re combative, a pain in the ass, and they are smelly. But it’s true. They’re right. (To the public) So that they can see we’re listening, please remove my personal opinions from the meeting minutes.  

KARLA: Again? 

ALEJANDRA: They’re already in the air. 

CIVIL SERVANT: They won’t be a factor whatsoever in the panel’s final decision. 

ALEJANDRA (She stands up and walks behind the chairs to get close to the CIVIL SERVANT. She is standing, and the CIVIL SERVANT is on the floor. The CIVIL SERVANT plays with the sand without looking at her.): So, you’re one of those people who think that things just fall according to their weight? 

KARLA: Focus, sweetie. 

ALEJANDRA: And that they’re guided by an invisible hand? 

CIVIL SERVANT: I don’t believe in the myth of gravity. 

ALEJANDRA: So, you do understand . . .  

CIVIL SERVANT: It is not your weight, but the forces around you that move you . . . 

ALEJANDRA:  . . . that comments like those create an environment that veers toward ignorance. 

KARLA: Calm down, honey.  

ALEJANDRA: And you don’t even do it out of conviction. You do it to make bureaucratic life more interesting. 

CIVIL SERVANT (looking at ALEJANDRA): Now you’re reading minds. 

ALEJANDRA: I can see it in your eyes. 

CIVIL SERVANT (resumes playing with the sand): You’d better calm down. 

ALEJANDRA: Only my wife can tell me to calm down. 

CIVIL SERVANT (playing with the sand): Either you calm down or we dissolve the panel.  

KARLA (KARLA stands up and goes over to ALEJANDRA, and takes her back to her seat): Sit down, sweetie. Don’t lose sight of the goal. 

ALEJANDRA: You’re going to let him keep pushing us around?  

KARLA: We’re meant to be seen, not heard. (They both sit down.

CIVIL SERVANT: Your little friend understands. 

ALEJANDRA (She stands up): Four, two, three years doing this. A stack of files the size of a Tolstoy and Karla is my little friend? 

CIVIL SERVANT: You have thin skin. 

ALEJANDRA: Karla is my wife. 

CIVIL SERVANT: Enough. 

(KARLA subtly gestures to ALEJANDRA to sit down, but ALEJANDRA remains standing.)  

CIVIL SERVANT: As president of the panel, I proclaim that we have all the necessary information. The panel will begin its deliberations. We will call you when we have reached a decision. (The CIVIL SERVANT goes down to the public and takes a seat among them. ALEJANDRA and KARLA pick up their documents and piece them back together, reinserting them in the folders. The CIVIL SERVANT speaks to the person sitting next to him in an intimate tone.) I understand, and as I have said, we won’t lose thirty years’ worth of friendship over something like this. But I’m going to teach these orangutans how we keep change at bay. I’m going to snuff out their revolutionary spark. They jump up and down, and we have to suppress what we think and feel. They jump through hoops and get laws passed on paper. But they’re not my laws. They’re not the laws of the people. They’re merely those written by immature politicians who say they’re defending so-called human rights. (The CIVIL SERVANT stands up and addresses another member of the public.) Look, ordering that we must turn over helpless children to a group of people with a clear record of emotional trauma—that is not human rights. Don’t look at me like that. I speak based on experience. This is neither Leviticus nor the Book of Revelation. Wherever you look, these people are damaged. They have to put up with people telling them all the time, no, playing with that hole is wrong, and they end up losing sight of what’s right and what’s wrong. (To another member of the public.) I know this panel has a different way of seeing things. But if we start saying that black is white and white is black, then we lose our moral compass. But enough. We aren’t going to lose our friendship over this. Let them adopt. (The CIVIL SERVANT walks to center stage. He does not look at the public, but somewhere within himself.) They act like saints, but they’re the opposite. And I’ll make sure everyone finds that out. That way we will silence the few fools tainted by human rights. They’re amateurs with a cozy bilingual private school education who are swimming in money and have scholarships to British universities. (Center stage and facing the public.) When they come back, they lock themselves in their rooms and sit in front of the computer, type, type, typing away to raise social awareness, as they say. But they lack the knowledge gained in real life from seeing a child with a black eye. Nurture patience and breed suspicion. But enough. We won’t lose our friendship over them. (He takes his phone out of his pocket and begins to take a video of the public. The public appears on the screen.) I already know what must be done. Let us vote. (He tells the public to vote and zooms in on those who raise their hands.) Raise your hand if you are in favor of allowing the applicants Karla Santos and Alejandra Vargas to legally adopt the young boy Moises Blanco. (The CIVIL SERVANT raises his hand and counts the rest.) Those opposed? (The CIVIL SERVANT raises his hand and counts the rest.) We have made a decision. (He turns off the camera. The CIVIL SERVANT goes behind KARLA and ALEJANDRA and touches the crowns of their heads.) In the name of the distinguished men and women members of the Ministry of Family adoption panel, and as stipulated in law 84, article 20, we wish to communicate that your petition to be considered legal adoptive mothers has been approved. Congratulations. We’re sure that you will make exemplary mothers.