Pies: A Tragico-Absurdist Vignette of Revolutionary Russia

‘This is a little piece now I’ve written myself, with a pen, and it’s set in Russia, around the turn of the century. I know what you’re thinking – don’t think that, because this is dark, penetrating theatre. Please enjoy a piece I’ve written, called simply: Pies.

An excerpt from the script of Pies: A Tragico-Absurdist Vignette of Revolutionary Russia, and its initial reception.


Characters: ,





Length: words

Pies: A Tragico-Absurdist Vignette of Revolutionary Russia by Culumacilinte


by Howard T.J. Moon

CENTRE STAGE there sits a WOMAN, swathed in black. This is Viveka Anatolyevna Nozdrina; her face is beautiful and sad, cheekbones like knives and a nose like the proud Russian eagle, like a statue cast in frozen cream. Her eyes like blueberries dropped in cream. Her lips like soft pillows of rosy cream. She weeps. Is she perhaps a widow, clad in mourning weeds? No, she has no lover she has left dead, but then, all women in Russia these days are widows.

Outside, the wind howls and snarls like a hungry, rangy dog. There is also a pack of actual dogs, hungry, rangy, feral. They too howl.

Enter the GENERAL, Konstantin Yulianovich Muravyov. A peaked cap upon his head, a heavy greatcoat wrapped around him, its breast and sleeves a-glint with medals and the stripes of his rank. And yet what good is rank, these days? Such is for simpler times. His face is stern and manful, his brow noble, his moustache luxuriant, and yet his cheeks are drawn to hollowness. This is a man, surely, who has seen horrors; he cannot be older than thirty, and yet he bears himself with the seasoned, steady weariness of a silver-haired old campaigner. There are graveyards in his eyes.

And yet now he is-- can it be?-- tentative, gentle. The lover approaching his beloved. From the fold of his coat he produces a pie. Not such a pie, perhaps, in fatter, happier days, but in revolutionary Russia, it is a mouthwatering feast. He holds it out.

GENERAL: Would you like a pie?

What a voice! Like the knell of the greatest, bassest church bell the world has ever heard. Like the voice of the most sorrowful stone in the deepest cavern under the steppes.


The GENERAL is nonplussed.

GENERAL: But it is a good pie.

WOMAN: Nevertheless. Last time you gave me pie, I cut into it with my tiny pie cutter and millions of birds flew out, hitting me in the eyes and the temples. (a great, betrayed wail) I was confused! It was a trick pie.

What is this? Surely one cannot truly fit millions of birds into a small pie, surely a man like this would not play such a cruel jape upon a poor woman. But this is not real life; this is Absurd.

GENERAL: Why you no like my pie?

The grand, ringing voice is a rasp now, a snarl, as if he is himself one of those starving dogs on the street. The WOMAN closes her beautiful blueberry eyes; has she not dealt with enough?

WOMAN: I just told you!

GENERAL: Why you no like my pie?

WOMAN: Why you always tricky pie?

The WOMAN is weeping, the GENERAL is hissing and spitting and growling, grown pathetic and bestial.

GENERAL: (keening) I bring you pie to show you I love you!

WOMAN: Why can’t you just tell me you love me?

GENERAL: Aiiiii!

WOMAN: It is pastry goods every fucking day with you!

GENERAL: Why? Why you no like pie?

WOMAN: I don’t want pie!

Their words are losing sense, screaming and wailing over each other, wordless gibbering howls. Only the occasional word can be discerned amid the cacophony; ‘pie’ and ‘why’, ‘you’ and 'love’.

They are closer now, and the WOMAN’s face is glazed with tears. The pie dropped, discarded carelessly, the GENERAL clutches at her shoulders with his craggy hands; she too pulls at him, with her hands in his lapels. They are barely people anymore; they are concepts, they are desire and betrayal, they are Russia. No words now, just shrieking, gasping and hacking and crying. All of this builds to a crescendo until it is nigh unbearable, at which point they collapse on top of each other, a pile of heaving breaths, worn down to nothing.

Lights down.


Howard watches Vince impatiently as his eyes scan the typewritten pages, bouncing a little in place. ‘Go on, then, what d’you think? I was thinking maybe of having them make love at the end, there, when they collapse.’

‘What, live on stage? Might not be the kind of audience you’re looking for, Howard.’

‘Well, it’s… symbolic.’

Vince laughs. ‘Symbolic? Symbolic of what? Really weird porn for boring intellectuals?’

‘Nevermind that, what’d you think?’

‘You ain’t gonna throw a wobbly if I criticise it?’

‘No!’ Howard snaps. Vince gives him a pointed look, and he subsides, making a visible effort to calm himself. ‘I mean, no. I’ve been working with Naboo, you know that.’

‘Well, it’s a bit… bleak, innit?’

‘It’s supposed to be bleak, Vince, it’s Russian.’

‘Yeah, but it kinda made me want to shoot my face off. What was it even supposed to be about? They just shouted at each other and then collapsed in a heap. Half of it didn’t even make any sense.’

‘It’s Absurdist, it’s not supposed to make sense.’

‘Seems like a cop-out to me.’

‘High art will always seem incomprehensible to those unused to critical thinking,’ Howard informs him loftily, and Vince snorts. ‘Anyway, it’s all there in the stage directions.’ He jabs energetically at a passage, and Vince squints at it, eyebrows wiggling.

‘Yeah, but… the audience can’t read the stage directions. It ain’t a novel.’

‘It’s not there for the audience, it’s there for the actors. To help them inform their performance, so they know how to correctly portray what the script asks of them.’

‘Yeah, so how exactly do you howl and gibber,’ he peers at the script for a moment, ‘like concepts, like desire and betrayal, like Russia?’

Howard is beginning to look self-conscious, but he draws himself up anyway, looking down his nose at Vince. ‘Are you an actor?’

‘No,’ Vince admits, kicking a heel, and Howard harrumphs.

‘There you are. Actors just… know these things; they know how to, to wield every look and each slight intonation like a sword!’ And just to illustrate, he drops into a lunge, thrusting one arm out dramatically like he’s skewering someone on the end of an imaginary sword. Vince grins, but waves it off, tilting a significant nod at the script in his hand.

‘Well, whatever. What’s all this about here, eh? Why’ve you made your tragic Russian lady into me?’

‘What!?’ Howard splutters, grabbing the manuscript back and squinting furiously at it.

‘Oh, go on! Nose like a Russian eagle? Beautiful blueberry eyes? She’s even got my initials! I mean, I’m well flattered that I’m the one who comes to mind when you think of a beautiful lady, but it is a bit weird, Howard.’

Howard has gone bright, blotchy red, his tiny eyes looking like they want to retreat back into his eye sockets entirely. ‘She’s not– she’s a deep and tragic character. No-one could exactly call you deep and tragic, could they, Vince, hmm? You’re about as far from deep and tragic as it’s possible to get.’

‘And your General Moo-wotsit, with his luxuriant moustache.’ Vince is grinning irrepressibly now. ‘Maybe I dunno about your Russian absurdity, but I’m not stupid, am I?’

‘That’s not– pure coincidence!’ Howard insists desperately. ‘You weren’t a man in Revolutionary Russia unless you had a moustache, it’s got nothing to do with me!’

‘You wanna make me pies, Howard?’ Vince asks, all feigned innocence, sidling into Howard’s personal space and looking up at him through his fringe. ‘Pretty sure I’ve got one’a those hats sitting around you could wear, if you want.’

For a moment, Howard holds his gaze; Vince’s lip caught up in his teeth and trembling faintly with the effort of holding back his laughter, big blue eyes cast up at him with wicked merriment. And then he folds the script in half and whacks him in the face with it. Vince doubles over with laughter and half-voiced pleas for Howard to relax, come on, admit it, it’s funny. Howard stumps back over to his typewriter, flopping down into his chair with a huff and glowering at it as if it had somehow betrayed him. So much for trying to share his writing.

He comforts himself through his confused embarrassment with the knowledge that Vince is simply not his intended audience; he’s an intellectual, that’s all. Intellectuals are always misunderstood. Definitely misunderstood. Yes.

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