Oscar Mandel

The Virgin and the Unicorn: Four Plays

The Virgin and the Unicorn: Four Plays

Prospect Park Books
(Go to “Books”/”Theatre”)
Original publication: Spectrum Productions/Books, 1993
ISBN 0-914502-10-7
181 pages
Soft cover: $12.00

larger view of cover image


From the PREFACE

In rough shorthand, the four plays in this volume speak essentially in two voices—the voice of prose and the voice of poetry. By prose I mean down-to-earth dialogue in contemporary settings, by poetry I mean flights into spaces that never were, whether articulated in verse or not.
I have arranged the plays so as to create two little voice-waves with them, poetry-prose-poetry-prose. The reader’s armchair journey begins with a unicorn roaming through a mock-medieval landscape lightly sprinkled with metaphysical suggestions; then comes a tale I have imagined as taking place, why not? at New York University, in whose halls, elevators, musty classrooms and agitated neighborhood I spent my four undergraduate years; followed by an ascension to the Garden of Eden, though not quite in the spirit of the prophets and rabbis; and concluding with a descent to an upholstered-furniture plant in Orlando, Florida, where the journey trails off with a view of trucks driving “onto the highway beyond.”
In addition to the plays. the reader and future producers will find, in an appendix, a number of corrections and minor revisions to several dramatic works published in earlier books, among them the two-volume Collected Plays brought out by Unicorn Press in the early seventies. . . . .
I keep appealing to readers in this brief preface, in spite of the aversion to reading plays that many book-lovers voice. I happen to think that the plays I am offering here function equally well as dramatic stories and as stageable scripts. Besides, the aversion in question is a peculiar and fairly recent fit of the sulks; in ages past plays were avidly read, read as literature whether they had been staged or not. Fortunately, many readers do continue to enjoy sitting down with a play the same way they do with a novel: and a playwright who combines a sense of the stage with a literary instinct can only hope to increase their number. I might add that playwrights have a special stake in attracting readers. Of course we all want to hear that our darlings are eagerly wooed by producers. But which one of us cannot tell a tale of horror about the molestations our scripts have suffered as they were being groomed for a theater? Injuries no conductor permits himself to inflict on a musical score. If readers misinterpret and manhandle, they do so at any rate in the privacy of their homes. At worst, we know that our very own texts, down to their humblest comma and conjunction, lie under the readers’ eyes. They endure no cruel cuts, no impertinent additions, no callous shiftings around of speeches, no anachronistic costumes.
Bless our readers, however few.