Purim comedy drama
by Steve Maltz
PROPS: Notepad, covered pot, spoons, soup bowl, gallows, Jewish Chronicle (national Jewish newspaper), dusty old book
Royal Palace There is a party in progress. Music and dancing. Then quiet as narrator speaks.
NARRATOR : (in rhyme – throughout)
A long long time ago there was a King in Persia old
Xerxes was his name and he was stinking rich, we’re told
He lived life to the full and loved to throw these parties,
These went on for days on end – oy, 6 days ago this one had started!
KING : Eunuch, fetch my Queen, will you.
Eunuch briefly consults others, then returns.
EUNUCH : My eminence, there is a problem.
KING : Problem?
EUNUCH : Queen Vashti refuses to come, Lord and Master.
KING : Refuses to come!
EUNUCH : Yes, she’s washing her hair.
KING : Washing her hair!
EUNUCH : Yes … and she’s got a headache.
KING : (angry and sarcastic) Got a headache! The Queen refuses her husband, the Conqueror of the World, the Master of the Universe because she’s got a headache … and she’s washing her hair!!
EUNUCH : (meekly) Yes, oh Great One. The King pauses for thought for a few seconds.
KING : (gesturing) Scribe! A scribe with a notepad comes scampering.
KING : (Loudly) Royal Decree! Send this to all households in the Kingdom.
Scribe starts scribbling.
KING : Husbands! Keep your wives in check! Chain them to the kitchen sink. Don’t let them out of the house and ……. GET ME A DIVORCE!
Party continues for a while, then fades out.
NARRATOR : So Queen Vashti was cut off from her inheritance
As the party continues without such irrelevance
But hark, a new arrival, a girl beautiful and fetching
It’s Esther the Jewess and what’s that she’s …. fetching?
(Esther arrives with a big covered pot, which she places on a table. She gets drawn into the festivities and dances. Eventually she dances with the King, who is immediately smitten by her beauty and reluctantly lets go of her as she pulls away and leaves the party.)
KING : Who was that?
EUNUCH : A foreign girl, I believe.
KING : Her name?
EUNUCH : (after consulting others) I don’t know. She didn’t have an invite.
SCRIBE :(bringing over the covered pot) But she left this.
King uncovers the pot and sniffs approvingly. He then takes a spoon an sips some of the contents.
KING : Chicken soup!
Eunuch takes a sip too.
EUNUCH : The best!
KING : (to the Scribe) Take this chicken soup through the kingdom. Check it against the chicken soups of every kitchen. I must find her. She is to be my queen!
OPPOSITE END OF THE ROOM (MORDECHAI’S HOUSE)
Scribe approaches the house. Before he gets there he is met by an ugly old woman with a pot.
NARRATOR : The Messenger searches the land far and wide for the source of that mystery brew
At last, ready to give up, he arrives at the house of Mordechai the Jew
It had been a long journey, he was shattered and tired, his spirit beginning to sag
So the last thing he really needed at this moment was to meet an ugly old hag.
SCRIBE : (sniffing the air and speaking to a fellow traveller) Mmmmm, I think we’re close.
OLD LADY : (thrusting a spoon at him) Here, try this!
The Scribe reluctantly takes a sip and rolls it around in his mouth as the old lady speaks.
OLD LADY :
It’s the best in the land …. Jewish penicillin y’know …. Cures all ills … You can even rub it in your feet for verruccas.
Scribe spits it out theatrically and pushes her aside as he knocks on Mordechai’s door. He enters. Mordechai and Esther are sitting at a table and a bowl of soup awaits him.
SCRIBE : That aroma
ESTHER : This soup!
Scribe takes a sip.
SCRIBE : (astounded) My goodness!
MORDECHAI : (proudly) My Esther!
SCRIBE : (bowing) My queen!
SONG (between scenes)
Mordechai is visiting the palace and Esther meets him. You can see the King, sitting on his throne, in the distance.
Through her beauty and soup, Esther becomes the Queen of the nation,
Privileges are hers – maids, leg waxing, colonic irrigation
Mordechai comes to bring her the things she needed, according to he
Lockshen soup with kreplach, gefilte fish and, of course, the JC
(Mordechai gives her a copy of the Jewish Chronicle)
MORDECHAI : Esther, Esther, my child!
ESTHER : What is it, Mordechai?
MORDECHAI : (questioning) You have been following my instructions?
ESTHER : Yes, Mordechai. No-one here knows that I am jewish. I have hidden it well.
MORDECHAI : You have hidden your prayer books?
ESTHER : Yes Mordechai.
MORDECHAI : Your Sabbath candles?
ESTHER : (slightly impatiently) Yes!
MORDECHAI : Your Barbra Streisand records?
ESTHER : (more impatiently) Of course! Is this why you’ve come. To nag me?
MORDECHAI : No, Esther, of course not. I have the gravest news for you. I have uncovered a wicked plot!
ESTHER : Go on.
MORDECHAI : (urgently) A plot to kill the king. You must tell him!
ESTHER : I will, I will! Now tell me …. (Mordechai and Esther disappear.)
And so Mordechai helps to save the King’s life and his deeds are duly recorded
But this is not the end of the story, in fact we’ve barely started!
Now there’s a baddie we’re about to meet, a man who hated every Jew
Our wicked chap is called Haman, let’s all tell him what we think …. booooooooo
So who is this fellow, the highest noble in the land, a thoroughly nasty bit of stuff
He’s the Kings 2nd in command, the sneak of the Court, that’s enough already, enough
He hated the Jews, wanted to kill them all, yes even Mordechai too
He hatched a plan, a devious plan, that evil Haman …. booooooooooo
HAMAN : Good morning, Your Majesty.
KING : Hello Haman.
HAMAN : Oh illustrious King, oh mighty one ..
KING : Shut up Haman and get on with it. What do you want?
HAMAN : You know that there is not a man in your kingdom as loyal as I.
KING : Yes, if you say.
HAMAN : And that all I do is out of duty to you.
KING : Go on.
HAMAN : Well … it’s these Jews, your majesty.
KING : What about them?
HAMAN : They refuse to obey your laws. They are unmanageable!
KING : (pensive) Mmmmm. That is not good. So …. what do you propose?
HAMAN : (with an evil expression) Kill them!
KING : A bit drastic!
HAMAN : (madly) Kill them!
KING : (to Eunuch 2 who is standing nearby) So we should kill them, should we? What do you say, Eunuch?
EUNUCH 2 : I say send them home. We don’t want them over here! Taking our jobs, the jobs of decent Persians! Send them home!
KING : You’re new here, aren’t you? What’s your name?
EUNUCH 2 : (clearly) Why, Eunuch Powell, sir! (This is a peculiarly english play on words – there was a politician, Enoch Powell in the 1960s, a famous racist who wanted to send blacks and Asians back to their ‘homelands’)
HAMAN : (after a pause) And I say kill them!
KING : (dismissively) Oh, go on then, do what you want. Now be off with you!
Haman walks off and Esther appears
So orders go out, wherever you find them, to kill the troublesome Jew
On the day of choice, 13th of Adar, as selected by Haman ….. boooooo
When the news came to Mordechai, he was beside himself with grief
He told Queen Esther. ‘What can I do’, she cried, shaking like a leaf.
Now Esther had been careful to hide the fact she was a Jew
So she too would be done to death by the plan of Haman …. booo
Through Mordechai she told the Jews, ‘Fast and Pray for me’
Then I will go to the King and plead our case and ‘what will be will be’
KING : Ah, my beautiful wife arrives, like a bird of paradise on a gentle breeze.
ESTHER : You flatter me, dear husband.
KING : No, my sunflower. I would do anything for you, even half the kingdom I would give to you, if you so ask.
ESTHER : It’s funny you should say that, because …
Haman arrives, smarmy as ever, nodding to them both.
ESTHER : (after a short pause) All I ask for now is for you both to come to my banquet tomorrow and, dear husband and king, you will get my answer.
Esther and the King go off, arm in arm. Mordechai appears and is spotted by Haman.
HAMAN : (pointing at Mordechai and speaking angrily) Mordechai, you will get what’s coming to you. You wait and see!
Mordechai disappears. Two friends of Haman appear, walking towards him.
FRIEND 1 : (pointing at Haman) Hey look. It’s Mr Evil, himself!
FRIEND 2 : Our mate, Haman the Horrible. How goes it chum!
HAMAN : Never better, never better!
FRIEND 1 : (gloatingly) How are things at the palace, then?
HAMAN : (mockingly) I’ve got them all round my little finger. Ha! Ha! Queen Esther has even invited me to a private banquet!
FRIEND 2 :That’s our Haman, devious to the end!
HAMAN : But not devious enough ….
FRIEND 1 : Why’s that?
HAMAN : There’s still that Jew, Mordechai in the way. He’s always at the Palace, poking his nose around …
FRIEND 2 : You surprise me, Haman. There’s a simple solution.
FRIEND 1 : Yes! Kill him!
FRIEND 2 : Kill him! String him up!
FRIEND 1 : By the neck! String him up!
HAMAN : Yes! Ha! Ha! That’s what I’ll do. Now who will build me the highest gallows in the land?
They walk off arm in arm.
In Royal Bedchamber King is lying restlessly on his bed. There is a door next to him.
So a gallows was built as high as the trees to hang Mordechai the Jew
He was to be the first to die at the dastardly, evil hands of Haman …. boooo
In fact that very morn he was going to ask the King to have his wicked way
“Then I can go to the feast a happy man. Death to Mordechai, oh happy day!’
KING : (to himself) I can’t sleep!
He gets up and knocks on the door. The Eunuch comes in.
KING : Eunuch!
EUNUCH : You knocked?
KING : I can’t sleep ….. fetch the Book of the Chronicles. That’ll send me off.
EUNUCH : Very good, sir. He fetches the book and gives it to the King who starts reading it.
KING : Ah, yes, Mordechai our friend. How was he rewarded for saving my life?
EUNUCH : Nothing, sir. He wasn’t rewarded at all.
Haman comes into view and King beckons him.
KING : Haman, I’m glad you’re here.
HAMAN : I was coming to see you anyway, my eminence. About a certain nuisance …
KING : Oh, shut up and listen. I wish to honour someone, someone who has been of great service. How should I go about this?
HAMAN : (with fake modesty) A royal robe. A royal horse. With a nobleman leading him in honour through the city.
KING : Great idea, Haman. Get the robe!
HAMAN : Yes, Oh majesty.
KING : Get the horse!
HAMAN : Certainly, my master.
KING : And give them to …….. Mordechai.
Mordechai appears and the King points to him. Haman, defiantly, excuses himself and storms out, knocking into Mordechai on the way out.
At the Royal banquet The King, Esther and Haman are sitting down at the banquet.
What a happy day it was for Mordechai the Jew, Led through the streets by no less than Haman …. booo
Everywhere they went people cheered for Mordechai
But his enemy was consoled by the thought, ‘soon he will die”
Cheered by his clever plans, they were dastardly too
We see arriving at the palace that nasty Haman …. boooo
He was going, whistling and smiling, as the happiest man to be seen,
To the banquet held in his honour by Esther the Queen.
KING : More wine, Haman?
HAMAN : (as Eunuch pours him wine) Why thank you, my majesty.
KING : (to Esther) Now, my dearest. You will answer my question? What is your request? What’s mine is yours, just say the word.
ESTHER : (sweetly) My request, oh King, is simple … grant me my life … and spare my people.
KING : (puzzled) What do you mean, Esther? Haman is beginning to look a bit uncomfortable.
ESTHER : (defiantly) My people and I have been earmarked for death and destruction … by your orders, my husband.
Haman has now caught on and stands up.
HAMAN : (looking at his watch) Is that the time?
KING : (shocked) Surely not I, Esther. What man has done this?
Haman starts to walk off.
HAMAN : (mumbling) I must be off!
ESTHER : (standing up and pointing at Haman) HAMAN!
The two Eunuchs also point at Haman and call out his name.
HAMAN : (innocently) Who, me? Surely you’re mistaken? Must be someone who looks like me …
KING : (in fury) HAMAN! STOP RIGHT THERE! Haman … is this true?
HAMAN : (casually) It was only a joke, a little game, your majesty.
KING : A joke? Who’s laughing?
HAMAN : Lots of people. Those Jews have a great sense of humour, you know. Only this morning …
KING : (interrupting) Eunuchs! Seize him!
The two Eunuchs seize him.
KING : Now what shall we do with him?
EUNUCH 1 : There’s a lovely big gallows outside Haman’s house.
EUNUCH 2 : Just begging to be used.
EUNUCH 1 : Yes, kill him!
EUNUCH 2 : Kill him! String him up!
EUNUCH 1 : By the neck! String him up!
Eunuchs take him away.
And so this sad tale had a happy ending, as they sometimes do
On the gallows meant for Mordechai, they hung Haman …. boo
This day we know as Purim, we celebrate every year at this time
Now the whole thing’s nearly over and I can stop speaking in rhyme
KING : Now that’s all over, I’m hungry. I know. Esther, make me some of that delightful chicken soup of yours!
ESTHER : (awkwardly) Um, well, um. I have a confession to make.
KING : (suspiciously) Yes, go on, my Queen.
ESTHER : It wasn’t my chicken soup. It was made by my maid. I was just drinking it. My maid’s a nice lady. From Egypt.
KING : Mmmm. I DID promise myself to the creator of that chicken soup. I know, I’ll bring your Egyptian maid into my harem.
He beckons Eunuch 2, who had returned.
KING : Don’t just stand there, fetch her!
Moments later the Eunuch returns with the Ugly Old Woman from the earlier scene. She carries a bowl of soup.
OLD LADY : (to King) Hello gorgeous!
KING : Arrrrrrrrrrrgh!
OLD LADY : (bowing) My king.