Helen!

A Musical Comedy

<©>1995-2011 Katherine Anne Harris. All rights reserved.





ACT II, Scene One

Royal flag now reads "Queen Leda Is Out; Princess Helen Presiding." In crowns last worn by senior royals, MENELAUS thunks spears at target, often missing, and HELEN on throne idly dusts abduction bag. MAIN SLAVE sits at her feet between "Out" Tray of wet clay and "In" tray holding baked tablets and a pink CD. Nearby pink boombox plays Buffy St. Marie: Here I'll stay until it's time for me to go...

HELEN: Bake a letter. (As SLAVE inscribes) Dearest Name Here, we're not moving to Mykenae after all. Mama and Tyndareus took their retirement yacht to cruise the islands, so guess who's Queen Pro-Tem? Yep, glued to the throne unless you'd care to...(Verifying he's oblivious) Hey, Menelaus, maybe y'should take up golf!

MAIN SLAVE: That was "glued to the throne unless you'd care to" -- abduct me?

HELEN: Puh-leeze! You can bring your wife, too. Geez, it's lonesome withoutcha.

(Light rises on theologeion; APHRODITE and ZEUS are listening.)

APHRODITE (heard only by HELEN): Strike the "lonesome" part; it's pathetic.

HELEN: The "lonesome" bit, it's self-indulgent. Mud it over...Hm, take down this P.S. "Received your darling precious letter and I'm all shivers to know you feel I'm really there with you. What am I wearing? Ha-ha. Hold the thought 'til we can objectify"...Copies to the usual list; include the P.S. where appropriate.

MAIN SLAVE: That'll be P.S. across the board then. They all report close congress with -- your spirit.

HELEN: What a load of bullsh**.

ZEUS (thundering): Watch your mouth, Little Girl!

(Getting the drift if not details, SLAVE hears thunder, then scrambles for fire extinguisher as ZEUS hurls lightning bolt at HELEN past APHRODITE, who ducks. SLAVE squirts fallen bolt.)

HELEN: No disrespect to bulls. I know they're among your favorite party outfits.

ZEUS: Apology accepted.

APHRODITE: I'm waiting for mine.

HELEN: Auntie A, there's a big glitch in your system. I mean it worked, but the boys don't need me at all; they can dream me up however suits them.

APHRODITE: It's much less wear and tear this way.

HELEN: And yet I'm feeling so diffuse.

APHRODITE: It'll clear up. You're just pregnant.

(With a horrified scream, HELEN dashes between target and spear MENELAUS is casting. MAIN SLAVE tackles and saves her.)

MENELAUS (grudgingly to SLAVE): She w-wanna g-go out or s-s-something?

HELEN (howling despair to the Universe): My life is over!

MENELAUS: I'll p-practice outs-s-side, if I'm g-getting on your n-nerves.

(MENELAUS EXITS with spears. HELEN sobs. SLAVE takes from "In" tray a "postcard paintied on stone and reads from reverse.)

MAIN SLAVE: New postcard from your mama, see. "Greetings from the Cyclades. Idyllic weather continues and we're acquiring sweet souvenirs. Statuary's primitive but precious. Could catch on. Off to Kos -- wish my little chick were here."

HELEN: I wish I were anywhere!

MAIN SLAVE (showing mail): But Your Versatility, Ma'am, you're all over the place...Last week you swam in the moonlight off Cyprus, galloped like Artemis across Thessaly, danced so divinely you inspired cosmological breakthroughs on Crete and even made it to -- no, at -- well, both -- the Delos almond festival.

HELEN: I can't stand it! Imaginary playmates are having all my fun!

(Scared SLAVE EXITS as, in a Zeuslike fury, HELEN smashes clay. tablets. APHRODITE whistles for MUSES, who play OFF or ON, and giggling FAUX-HELENS, who ENTER to sing backup.)

APHRODITE : Downbeat, Girls.

Vanishing into Thin Air

HELEN (singing):
Whenever they crave company
I endlessly swim in the sea
-- or dance without rest, always dreamily dressed
then do some philosophy!

My phantoms, they flit everywhere
-- free of all infelicitous cares.
They're smiling and pretty, dead-charming and witty.
What's going on here if I'm there?

Whatever they find themselves wanting
trust Helen to handle the haunting.
A spin of the wheel, a roll of the dice
-- I'm never the same river twice.

My phantoms, they flit everywhere
-- conducting protean affairs.
While my own emanations get all the vacations
I'm vanishing into thin air!

I'm everyone's treat on the side
-- a secret luxurious bride.
Their letters extol her, with sweet love they're signed
then addressed to this shade left behind.

My phantoms, they flit everywhere
-- the best rides at romance's funfair!
It's just as I vowed when I dazzled the crowd
but what's going on here if I'm there?

Invisibility, dear mama's thing
-- it turns out it comes with the ring.
Lonesome tree in the forest, I'm tumbling down
without sound, 'cause nobody's around.

My phantoms, they flit everywhere
-- evoking no sensitive care.
Worst of all, in this sector, I'm only a spectre.
I'm vanishing into thin air!

I'm less and less here, and more there.

I'm vanishing into thin air.

APHRODITE (as music fades) Like that tape I sent you?...(Indicating pink CD surviving in otherwise empty "In" tray) You'll love the other one!

(HELEN starts new CD and APHRODITE dances as Ellen McIlwaine sings: Didn't he know what he was doin, puttin eyes inside my head? If he didn't want me chasin all those men, he woulda left my eyeballs dead. Isn't that so?...)

APHRODITE (singing along): "Y'gotta go where your heart says go. Isn't that so?"

HELEN (glumly climbing stairs): You doing soundtrack for a road film or what?

APHRODITE: Oh, brighten up. You'll love again. If you didn't have that hope to hang onto, Darlin, you'd just lie down and say, "Don't bother to wake me."

HELEN: Don't.

(HELEN slams bedroom door and get in bed as palace darkens. Above, FAUX-HELENS EXIT giggling. ZEUS and APHRODITE hear cheers of CROWD, OFF and gaze off left. GRACES ENTER in cheerleader outfits with pompoms. HERA and ATHENA ENTER with stadium blankets, thermos bottles and such. ALL look left.)

APHRODITE (over cheers, off): Go, Paris! Move that chariot! Whip Aeneas' ass!

AENEAS, OFF: What's this "whip Aeneas' ass" business? You're my mother!

GRACES: Gimee a P, gimee an A, gimee an R, gimee me an I, gimee that S!
In alla'Phyrgia, he's the best -- yay, Paris!

ATHENA: Give it a rest.

HERA: So why y'putting up with this crapola, Dread Son of Kronos? Prince Deiphobos it shoulda been winning chariots.


ATHENA: Well, at javelins Hektor never loses --

APHRODITE: Stay tuned...Throw that thing, Paris!

HERA: Flub up, Pretty Boy!...(Seeing the result) Phooey.

ZEUS (consulting score-card: Makes it helmet, red cloak, prize ram and the tripod and cauldron to Paris.

(GRACES jump and cheer. ATHENA and HERA stage-whisper.)

ATHENA: You shoulda let me fuck things up for the comeback kid, Step-Mom.

HERA: Wise Athena, y'got sometimes bubblegum for brains. Longer view we'll take; let him rise n'fall harder; bring the place down with him.

(HERA and ATHENA EXIT, whispering.)

APHRODITE: O look, Zeusy! King Priam's even giving Paris an iron sword...Now they recognize him; they're hugging!...'Bout time we wired that; took forever to get up a funeral...Now all we gotta figure's how to get him to Akhaia...Rats, trust Hektor n'Kassandra to bring up that old dream...Priam, Hekuba, you love this boy! What's a nightmare? False alarm, false dream; hell's full of 'em.

(Light fades above and rises on HELEN, asleep near pink baby bed added to set in darkness. FAUX-HELENS wave elm branches over her.)

FAUX-HELEN 1: They seem quite green enough: leaves of the ancient elm that shades Hades' courtyard --

FAUX-HELEN 2: Yet bogus dreams cling beneath these like aphids and as numberless. Divine illusions in plenty for everyone -- these few bear Helen's love --

FAUX-HELEN 3: Visions of perfected passion, endless gladness bring again sweet sleep to Helen and her heroes.

HELEN (dreamily reciting names): Theseus ...Antilochus...Diomedes...ooh, Nireus!

FAUX-HELEN 1: Ample for one night....(ON EXIT with #3) To the palaces of Ahkaia roam these ghosts again --

FAUX-HELEN 2: While I make the new stop. At Troy...(Leaning over HELEN) One more time, go for it, Girlfriend -- thinka names that start with "P."

HELEN (shuddering in ecstasy): Peirithous! Polyxeinus! Peleus!

FAUX-HELEN 2 (following OTHERS off): No cigar, but close.

(As FAUX-HELENS EXIT, APHRODITE ENTERS.)

APHRODITE (to HELEN 2 ): You're catching her style; loved the aphids bit;coach that crew!...(As BABY yowls) Come to Auntie, Hermione. (Crooning as she lifts BABY holding toy Gorgon) Lullabye, what a fright; this is from Athena, ri-ight?...No wonder you're bawling; thing's grotesque. And so original! She gave the same toy to my Aeneas'little boy.

HELEN (rousing with a yawn): You have a grandson -- where?

APHRODITE: At Troy...Ilium. In Phrygia. Hellespont area.

HELEN: Don't believe I've ever met anyone from there...No, I lied; there's Hesione, that princess Aggie snatched way back when n'gave to What's-His-Face.

APHRODITE: Perfect! King Priam's long-lost sister! She must be terribly homesick.

HELEN: Actually she was life of the orgy last Dionysia.

APHRODITE: Brave girl.

HELEN: She's forty if she's fifteen, fat n'happy -- leave it alone.

APHRODITE: She doesn't have to go home, but decency requires she be invited.

(Thrusting BABY at HELEN, APHRODITE swings by rope to theologeion, where lights rise as they fade on HELEN.)

APHRODITE (still swinging): Iris, quick, bring the Social Register!

(IRIS ENTERS with huge scroll and catches APHRODITE.)

APHRODITE: Hesione of Troy, who'd she marry?

IRIS: That'd be Teucer, son of King Telemon. In Salamis. Half-bro Ajax is heir.

APHRODITE (tuning into cosmos): Aphrodite to Trojan palace, Hektor direct...(Cooing) It's your brother-in-law's mom, Hon, with a dreamy notion... Not that; those gals need rest. Recall your auntie Hesione? Nasty Argives schlepped her. She's at Salamis with a Prince Teucer, not the heir mind you, and wouldn't it be nifty to ship your newfound hotshot bro off to her rescue?...Thought you might wanna suggest it. Say, who's in the next suite with Paris?...That river nymph Oenone again ; may as well be married...They say they are? But no hymns yet. Oh-well! Sleep tight, Hektor; wake inspired. You, too, Helen.

Black



Scene Two

MENELAUS thunks spears as ever. Upstairs, BABY yowls as HELEN -- rumpled, crown askew -- dances with her to boombox playing Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. HELEN howls and MAIN SLAVE enters to help; HELEN hands over BABY.

HELEN: I give up!...Now I get why Mama preferred me to the others; I was never a bawling blob. (Aside, showing "family photo" urns in increasing sizes depicting Helen in increasing sizes) I didn't grow up; I was enlarged. From the sec I hatched, I was a person -- like "How do you do? No milk thanks, just a thimbleful of dry white while I take my bubblebath. I'll need your hairdresser -- I can tell you've taste, Mama -- and have your couturier do me a tiny frock like yours. Anybody comes at me with drop-ass footie pj's, I bite."

MAIN SLAVE: You were adorable.

HELEN: I was a friggin freak!

(SLAVE EXITS with BABY, fleeing HELEN's fury.)

HELEN (aside) Picture this among toddlers.

(Light rises on theologeion; APHRODITE giggles with GRACES and EROS.)

APHRODITE: Picture that among guests...You're a wreck, Helen.

HELEN (shouting, panicked): Guests?!

MENELAUS (thrilled): C-C-C-Company!...(Calling to SLAVES, OFF) F-f-food! D-drinks! G-guest gifts!

(Followed by GRACES and EROS, APHRODITE swings across to burst in on HELEN, while SLAVES ENTER downstairs with tables, wipe them with mint leaves, pile on food, drinks and gift-wrapped boxes and hang "Welcome, Honored Guest" banner.)

APHRODITE (to GRACES): Battle stations, Girls.

HELEN (glum): So what's the deal -- Kastor reviewing us for the Hospitality Guide?

APHRODITE (as GRACES giggle): Even as you fluff up, a prince approaches.

HELEN (still glum): Can't be one a'my guys -- who'd bother?...So what's this dude's claim to fame?

APHRODITE: Well, he won every event in the latest Trojan funeral games.

HELEN (unimpressed): Megamarvelous. A superjock playpal for Menelaus.

APHRODITE: He's only a social jock; beauty's his addiction...His ship's stocked with pressies like you've never seen and he's an incomparable hunk...Now that we have your attention and your face on...(pointing to window ) take a peek.

GRACES (giggling as HELEN stares, trying vainly to form words ): Her, speechless!

HELEN (airily, believing she gets the joke) He's no prince, he's a god...Hey, Apollo -- Bubba, changed your hair!

APHRODITE: Look him over again, Girl; you're outa practice.

HELEN: Dionysos! Man, you've cleaned up your act -- detox or what?...(Suddenly mortified, she ducks below window level ) Ooheek, I squealed like an ditz at a stranger!...(Aside, after a beat) Gosh, he's ever cuter than Nireus. Same type --

MENELAUS: H-Helen, come d-d-down, h-hurry!

APHRODITE (snapping fingers): Paris! Paris, snap out of it!

PARIS: What now, Pretty One? I can't just knock and say "Aphrodite sent me."

APHRODITE: Beauty draws all things, Cutie. Be your magnetic self.

(APHRODITE moves to stairs and with grand gesture reveals herself to SLAVES and MENELAUS, who bow and freeze as, garbed with the vivid opulence of Asia Minor, PARIS enters and locks eyes with HELEN. EROS aims at HELEN's rear.)

APHRODITE (holding back arrow): At the mo', Kiddo, that would be overkill.

( HELEN and PARIS move toward one another, transfixed)

APHRODITE: Ah, the first meeting of the eyes, when chance embraces destiny...(Aside) An amazing congruence which illumines the whole of life as Fate's intention binds its fragments.

HERALD, OFF (after blowing a fanfare): Prince Paris of Troy.

HELEN (into his eyes): Paris...(Checking labels on bag) Hm, never been there.

PARIS: Helen -- you were in my mind and heart before I ever saw you.

HELEN: And you've been in my dreams -- isn't that weird?

PARIS: You're a thousand times more beautiful than they say.

GRACE 1: Poseidon's standing by to shake the earth, Ma'am.

GRACE 2: Glitter for atmosphere, yes?

GRACE 3: A little Muse-Music?

EROS: C'mon, lemme, lemme!

APHRODITE: Aw, anything worth doing's worth overdoing!...Muses, hit it again!

(Glitter rains, EROS looses arrows and the earth moves, pitching HELEN down bannister into PARIS' arms as MUSE-music surges at APHRODITE's cue. MUSES can be OFF or ON.)

Argive Hospitality Time

MENELAUS (spoken intro): Slaves, bring b-beer and sp-spears! We need some s-service here!

HELEN (singing): My husband's clearly thrilled you came.

PARIS (joining song) And your views?

HELEN: They're precisely the same!

PARIS: I've never felt so welcome.

HELEN: Without guests life is humdrum.
(Pointing to spear setup) Do him the honor of a game.
Your strength, I'm sure, will set us aflame.

SLAVES (singing as they dance): The royals of Akhaia are mighty glad to see ya!
They find your company sublime!
It's Argive hospitality time!

(PARIS aces a shot; HELEN toasts him with beer and hates it.)

MENELAUS: Sk-sk-skillful throw, Chum!

PARIS (humbly): A bit of luck you score some.

HELEN: They're gonna get along just fine!
Slaves, for Pete's sake locate our best wine.

PARIS: My friends, you're far too kindly!

HELEN: In those eyes nobody'd find me!
Gods, are you behind me? He's divine!

SLAVES (tap-dancing by with amphora and glauxes, delivering wine): The royals of Sparta have taken you to heart, Suh.
They find your company sublime!
It's Argive hospitality time!

EROS: Hey, Paris missed the target!

APHRODITE: He's shooting for the stars, Pet.
You know he's aiming to get laid.
The wages of sin must be prepaid!

(PARIS and HELEN wink as MENELAUS aims again; the shot's good. PARIS toasts his host's win as SLAVES bring platters.)

PARIS: To your winning shot, a toast!

MENELAUS: It's h-hot, let's eat the roast.

HELEN: Menelaus hates to boast; come take a chair.

(As MENELAUS futzes with spears, SLAVES bring a third throne,in which SLAVE MAITRE-D' seats PARIS. Song shifts to lyric tempo.)

APHRODITE: Was I right there's no mortal no fair?

PARIS: Golden apple is yours fair and square -- this gal's the most!

(PARIS lifts goblet to HELEN, then addresses MENELAUS on throne opposite hers. SLAVES set groaning banquet table before them.)

PARIS: To your smile and those eyes and that hair...
(to MENELAUS) -- and your might and largesse past compare, my noble host!

(Blind to flirtation between PARIS and HELEN, including a moment when HELEN drops goblet, both reach for it and her tunic opens, MENELAUS laps up praise.)

MENELAUS: A-after these few courses. we'll r-ride my swift horses!
Stay as l-long as you c-can!

HELEN: We love to see a lot of a good man!

(Tapping SLAVES EXIT and RE-ENTER costumed as PERFORMERS -- MUSICIANS, JUGGLERS, whatever. EROS makes mischief ad lib.)

SLAVES: The royals of Laconia are happy to enthrone ya!
They find your company sublime!
It's Argive hospitality time.

(Blowing a big kiss, APHRODITE EXITS smugly.)

Black.



Scene Three

On theologeion, APHRODITE trims pink toenails with golden scissors, humming a bluesy tune as HERA ENTERS. In megaron, where three thrones are arranged com-panionably, HELEN fiddles with spindle and workbasket between peeks out window

APHRODITE: An Argive reception can change your direction from Fast-Forward to Linger -- what's a ring on her finger?

HERA: Far enough this gag has gone, Aphrodite. Surrender the apple, send Paris home or it'll all end in tears. He's married also.

APHRODITE: Not formally.

HERA: Since today you're a stickler for technicalities? His Oenone, she now has a baby. On both sides a kid's involved...(As APHRODITE hums) You're a slut.

(Hearing noises, off, HELEN rises, dropping spindle. She bends and her top opens again as PARIS and MENELAUS ENTER. PARIS drops gifts and freezes. MENELAUS doesn't notice HELEN, but revives PARIS.)

HERA: You're a slut, that's what, and so's she!

APHRODITE: Theirs is an innocent relationship...(As HERA EXITS) Darn it.

HELEN: More gifts from your ships! And they're the cutest ships I ever saw, with Auntie A painted on as pilot and those itty-bitty Eros figures...(To MENELAUS) Gahds, Honey, isn't he thoughtful?

APHRODITE: Iris! Social Register again!

(HELEN oohs over gifts as IRIS ENTERS above with scroll.)

APHRODITE: You'll never learn to walk properly, will you, Darlin?...Never mind. I need you to scoot off to Atropos now --

IRIS: Atropos, Ma'am! The Inflexible?

APHRODITE: The Snipper Herself. It's high time to cut the thread on Menelaus' oldest relation of sufficient significance to warrant extended funeral games.

IRIS (checking scroll): That'd be King Catreus of Crete.

APHRODITE (glancing at register): Old Catreus. My, he's had a good run.

(APHRODITE waves IRIS away and scissor-snips air. IRIS EXITS.HELEN unwraps a gold mirror and smiles Aphrodite's smile.)

HELEN: Paris, you shouldn't have! (Opening another box) Cosmetic samples, too!

(ZEUS ENTERS theologeion, thundering.)

APHRODITE: If it isn't Zeus the All- Knowing!...Iris is already on her way, so lighten up, Big Daddy, think about that funeral barbeque. Y'love Minoan sauce!..(As ZEUS calms and looks at HELEN) It's just same old/same old down there. Presents. Burning looks, stolen kisses, burning looks, better presents --

ZEUS: Kid getting neurotic like her mom or what's it?

APHRODITE: I thought you didn't especially want this to work out for Helen.

ZEUS: But what's wrong with her?

APHRODITE: Nothin privacy won't fix; Menelaus has been monopolizing the guest.

(KASTOR ENTERS megaron, dragging an open parachute.)

KASTOR: Helios was passing over, I snagged a hop --

HELEN: Pollux!...Kastor? During business hours!

KASTOR: Menelaus, your grandpa -- one minute he was showing me the improvements to guest quarters at Knossos, the next minute he was defunct.

(HELEN and PARIS clasp MENELAUS into a consoling hug.)

KASTOR: His improvements -- primo. Place is four amphorae-rated now.

HELEN: Like who cares, Kastor? We're doing grief here!

MENELAUS: My m-men and I, we'll have to s-sail at once.

KASTOR: I can get you there today, Buddy; express dolphin's due in. Doesn't usually take ordinary mortals, but if you're with me...Look, we gotta rush --

HELEN: I'll get the ships equipped, don't worry.

MENELAUS: M-may be gone for m-months --

HELEN: No need to hurry.

MENELAUS: M-messenger to Agam-m-memn-non --

HELEN: I'll send one.

MENELAUS: And s-send all my m-men.

HELEN: As fast as I can. Is there anything else?

MENELAUS: T-take good c-care of our g-guest!

(MENELAUS and KASTOR EXIT. PARIS calls after.)

PARIS: It's been great, Man!...(Aside) Like a holiday at boot camp.

(Alone with PARIS, HELEN's uncharacteristically edgy, given to nervous giggles, pauses, inanities. APHRODITE and ZEUS trade "I can't believe this" looks. PARIS sees GODS; for once HELEN doesn't.)

HELEN: A joke, huh? Um, funny. I mean, ah, you're so good at all that riding and chariot-racing and the spear n'sword stuff --

PARIS: I'm only a social jock, Helen. Do you mind?

HELEN: Mind?! After my thing with Bravest Theseus, other jock types are a yawn...Um, ah, guess you'll be sailing off to find your auntie now --

PARIS: It's a formality. I hear my grandpa sacrificed Hesione to Poseidon when she was a kid and, after Herakles freed her, she couldn't wait to beat feet.

HELEN: Then, ah, I can see how she might rather stay put. But, ah, it'll be dead-boring here -- won't be another man in the whole palace soon -- just your ship crew down the road so -- Gahds, this is not me talking.

APHRODITE (calling, off): Eros you brat, you've overdosed her!

HELEN: So maybe you'd like a nosh or a massage slave...Wine? No, too early.

(APHRODITE dims daylight to dusk. HELEN pours wine.)

HELEN: Guess I lost tracka time.

PARIS: That jerk didn't kiss you goodbye.

HELEN: Y'know how it is -- you go away, you always forget something!

PARIS: If you were mine, I wouldn't forget...Forget that, I wouldn't go. Couldn't.

HELEN: But for funeral games and a really kinghell coronation?...(As PARIS shakes his head firmly) Not even if I told you that I love you? (As PARIS shakes his head in puzzlement) I say this and they all go away -- happy, see?

PARIS: Not me.

HELEN: Oh it's the best thing -- dreamgirls aren't for everyday.

PARIS: I can take a lot of luxury.

HELEN: You can?...(After a beat, melting): Paris!

PARIS (about to embrace her): Helen!

POSTMAN, OFF (desperately): Postman!

(At the cry and chime, HELEN darts for door. APHRODITE makes it day again. POSTMAN ENTERS with parcels lashed to dripping inner tube.)

POSTMAN: Express Mail, Lady.

HELEN: Fabulous!

POSTMAN (aside): She says fabulous. The dolphin nearly drowned...(To PARIS) Package for you, too, Sir.

(POSTMAN EXITS as PARIS shakes his box, which rattles. HELEN rips into boxes, glad of something innocuous to do.)

HELEN: The dresser set I ordered! Alabastron, pyxis, lekanis -- geometric style, it's really trendy. And my fan from Alexandria -- love the leaf shape! Y'don't think copper alloy's tacky, do you?

PARIS: You should have gold...(Opening box) Hm, copy of Hektor's wedding urn.

APHRODITE: Family pictures -- perfect!...(To MUSES, OFF) Muses, play it!

(At APHRODITE's cue, PARIS pours out pottery shards. MUSES play -- OFF or ON -- and APHRODITE sings, still unnoticed by HELEN.)

APHRODITE (singing): Tres intimate, the stuff of sentiment!
Show her what Mother sent -- a glimpse of your homelife.

PARIS (joining song) This shard's my brother, Hektor, with his wife.

HELEN (spoken): Cute!

PARIS: And here's my sis, Apollo's priestess;
she hears strange voices, sees things that aren't there.

HELEN (spoken): Scary kin but you can't say she's not fair.

PARIS: She's my twin.

HELEN (examining pottery shards): Wild party scene!

PARIS: That's Mom, the queen: an Amazon 'til she met Dad, King Priam.

HELEN: Just two parents! And he can verify them. Wow!...Who're all the others?

PARIS: My fifty brothers -- plus sisters and in-laws and nephews and nieces.
Helen, they're all gonna love you to pieces!

HELEN (spoken): SAY WHAT?

ZEUS (as music stops abruptly): Slow down to the speed of light, Loverboy!

PARIS: I mean sometime you'll visit us in Troyland...Won'tcha, Babydoll?

HELEN: Pretty family, and your palace -- what's all that gold stuff lying around?

PARIS: Uh. Gold.

HELEN: Musta been a neat place to grow up.

PARIS (shrugging a "who knows?"): I spent a blighted youth in foster care. ZEUS: You're onto something now! Play it! Play it!

PARIS: Bad omen at birth. Dad put his foot down, off went the jinx-kid. What could Ma do? They kill both twins where she comes from.

HELEN (moved to take PARIS' hand): Too sad. All those years alone.

PARIS: But good people took me in, good simple people. They called me "Paris." Beats me, why; my name was Alexandros.

APHRODITE: I'd planned on a glam' approach; this is maudlin.

PARIS: It was -- a life close to nature. Yes. I -- tended animals, Helen. I was Alexander the Defender. Of sheep.

HELEN: You poor degraded thing!

PARIS: Sports got me out of the ghetto, so that's all in the past now -- never mind.

HELEN (giving PARIS a quick hug): Ooh you're so brave about it.

PARIS (lowering his eyes): I try to be....(Shocked by a shard he sees) There's been a funeral at home, too -- aw, step-bro Aesacus.

HELEN (looking at shard): Looks like snake-bite -- but Tethys turned him into a bird, so it coulda been worse....(Shocked) He was pursuing a nymph!

(After a "guilty, too" look unseen by HELEN, PARIS hides face as if sobbing and HELEN embraces him earnestly.)

ZEUS: So send down th'Charites; whatcha waitin for? No blessing comes to a man except through them; that's th' program.

APHRODITE: I'm still not sold on this angle.

(ZEUS pounds thunder vehemently, so APHRODITE snaps fingers and GRACES ENTER.)

APHRODITE: The girls prefer to be called Graces.

GRACES (with curtsies to ZEUS): Aglaia...Euphrosyne...Thalia.

(ZEUS "magically" produces nurse hats, puts these on GRACES and shoves them down firepole, slide or ladder -- then glares at APHRODITE until she cues MUSES, who play Let's Do It).


Black.



Scene Four

Propped on frilly pillows in bedroom, HELEN -- in pink nightie -- writes in pink diary while PARIS sleeps beside her. In frumpy robe and gold slippers, HERA watches from theologeion. APHRODITE ENTERS in naughty negligee matching rose crown.

APHRODITE (to HERA): Watching "Good Morning, Sparta," are we?

HELEN (looking up): Which came first, Auntie A -- a lover or a lovee?...Dumb question. Love requires lovers; it's phenomenological.

HERA: Real mischief y'can make with a bright one, y'Rosy-Crowned Panderer --

APHRODITE (laughing): Some aren't the happily-ever-after type.

HERA: Some are.

(Crowned and in matronly garb, KLYTEMNESTRA ENTERS megaron from outside, with pram. Leaving pram, she storms upstairs. HELEN hears and covers PARIS' head, then goes to pink armoire and flings glitzy clothes on bed, as if deciding what to wear.)

APHRODITE: Sure, she's tickled pink.

KLYTEMNESTRA: Where is he?

HELEN (as KLYTEMNESTRA bursts in): Sorry if you've misplaced Agamemnon, but I wouldn't touch him with a double axe.

KLYTEMNESTRA: My dear lord remains at the games. I refer to your toy boy...You're a matron now, Helen. How can you let your daughter down like this?

HELEN: Whoo, bad case of premature dignification. Anyhow, I'm younger than --

KLYTEMNESTRA: You admit it, you have a lover here! By Gold-Shod Hera, Queen of Heaven, what disgrace, what shame!

HERA: Of her own sister, she didn't wanna believe it.

HELEN (to HERA): Of course she did. She's always hated me. She never got over it when Theseus and Peirithous snatched me and wouldn't take her along.

APHRODITE: Remind Kay that jealousy is ugly.

KLYTEMNESTRA (as HELEN lifts gold mirror): Accepting rich gifts from him, even You're just bought and paid for -- shipload a'glitz and it's Take Me, I'm Yours.

HELEN (holding mirror to KLYTEMNESTRA's face): You are disfigured by jealousy.

KLYTEMNESTRA: I am mortified to death -- and exhausted from traveling all night to avoid further public embarrassment. Jealous of you! Don't flatter yourself.

HELEN (humbly): Others do that far better than I ever could.

KLYTEMNESTRA (aside): Wouldn't you love having her for a sister?... (Lecturing) Nobility of birth must be matched by nobility of conduct.

HELEN: Gosh. Tell Pop.

KLYTEMNESTRA: Don't remind me! Hasn't it been horrid enough, those tacky statues of Mama with the goldang swan? Now it's signal fires! Palace to palace, peak to peak, the air's blue with gossip about you whoring in Menelaus' bed!

HELEN: Mama bought this suite for me when I was twelve.

KLYTEMNESTRA: And I never got one! You they kept home: the Barbie Doll -- no zits, baby fat, adolescent angst. Me they shipped me off for Sparta's security as a child bride t'that cannibal Tantalus n'then his grandson A.G. Now my first daughter's almost big enough to marry.

HELEN: Must be -- interesting to stay with someone long enough to have a history.

KLYTEMNESTRA: I feel so o-o-old!

HELEN: Is it my fault if you neglect skincare and workouts?...(Like an aerobics instructor) C'mon, let's get that circulation going! Make it burn!

KLYTEMNESTRA (as HELEN does Spartan bottom-kick dance): At least I have my morality! Mama didn't raise us to entertain guests in bed; not mortals, anyhow.

HELEN (as HERA winces): May score an extra amphora in the Hospitality Guide.

KLYTEMNESTRA (seeing stack of clay tablets by bed): What's this stuff?

HELEN: Lately it's all happening in Crete. Your squeeze won the lance event --

KLYTEMNESTRA: As usual.

HERA: Wifely pride. Charming, charming.

APHRODITE: Get a life, Klytemnestra!

KLYTEMNESTRA: These are love notes!

HELEN: Life’s little grace notes.

KLYTEMNESTRA: From your rejected suitors!

HELEN: Not a kind phrase; I prefer to think of them as lagniappe...If it makes you feel any better, I haven't seen 'em in a thousand years.

KLYTEMNESTRA: Liar! Look at this -- and this! A wonder your hair's dry. You've ridden Dolphin Express more often this summer than I've had bikini waxes.

HELEN: Good you're keeping yourself up a little...But how can I be cavorting everywhere if I'm scandalously shacked up here?...Gettin the drift, Sis?

KLYTEMNESTRA (with an edge of horror): These letters sound so certain.

HELEN (backing KLYTEMNESTRA to door): And I'm present here, you think. But would you take that to the bank, Klytemnestra?

APHRODITE (laughing): Slick, Helen, that's slick!

KLYTEMNESTRA (terrified): Are you a witch or what? I don't even know you.

HELEN (aside, as KLYTEMNESTRA runs down): Hardly anybody bothers.

(KLYTEMNESTRA EXITS with pram. PARIS peeks out.)

PARIS: Who was that woman and why?

HELEN (going to vanity): My sister actually believes I'm a sorceress.

PARIS (rising): Aren't you? I'm spellbound.

HELEN: Here, try some of my kohl. Egyptian Vogue shows everybody's wearing it...(Making PARIS up) Now how about some bronzer?...Ooh, you fluff up nice.

PARIS (liking the effect): Screw nature, give me art.

HELEN (aside): This dude's my counterpart.

PARIS (pointing to mirror reflection with HELEN): Match made in heaven, I think --

HELEN: Oops, you're coming on possessive again.

PARIS: Helen, Sweetheart, Baby, face it -- you can't stay here.

HELEN: It's my own palace in my own queendom; give me one reason why not.

PARIS: Queendoms are going out.

HELEN: Not in my lifetime, though those new Dorians are awfully partial to sons. My stepdaddy actually came from invader-stock, but he's been adaptable.

PARIS: Okay, picture the return of Menelaus. Can you live with him?

HELEN: I'd rather make little Hermione queen, and retire to a temple!

PARIS (indicating glitzy clothes on bed): Wrong wardrobe...Can you kick him out?

HELEN: It'd be sticky. There's this Argive unity movement, quite a power block.

PARIS: Why'd you marry the creep?

HELEN: Ga-ahds, Paris, think about the girls you've, ah...(As he winces) Sometimes it's a mystery, isn't it?...So level. Y'gotta have someone special at home.

PARIS (carefully): Not special...Helen, sail with me and be princess of Troy.

HELEN: Must be a hundred of those! Anyway, why would I dump one husband, just to take on another?

(PARIS brings lyre from beneath covers and strums. APHRODITE cues MUSES to play along with him.)

PARIS: Those birds y'maybe noticed when I showed up --

HELEN: Looked like a cloud of doves followed you.

PARIS: Guided me...(Half-singing) It's not our fault we're glorious. It's not our fault we're here. Our love's Fate's latest story. We must thank the puppeteers....

Only Gods Can Be Causes

PARIS (singing): Only Gods can be causes! We're not being lawless!
(Grabbing HELEN's ass) It's all in their hands --

HELEN (moving his hands): Hey, y'misunderstand!
(Singing) It's been grand diversion; you've been my first Persian;
I'll treasure our pleasure, but this is my land!

PARIS: But Beauty is Destiny!

HELEN: Maybe if I were free --

PARIS: Helen, you're meant for me.

HELEN: Hon, there's still ooze on my tree!

PARIS: Only Gods can be causes! They're always the bosses --

HELEN: We're making clear choices!

PARIS: We asked to be gorgeous?

HELEN: I think we're to blame, just the same.

PARIS: Then you're being profane!

APHRODITE (as HELEN looks up): Darlin, it's up to you. Do what y'wanna do.
Helen, just follow your heart. Maybe make a new start.

HELEN (pacing as she sings): Should the love of the century make me a refugee
it's not by Divine Decree but from due thought.
It's that Paris loves poetry, treats me with dignity,
disperses my long ennui, doesn't like sports.
But I can't rule here absentee, so I'd leave Hermione
'til Mama comes back -- n'once I'm a divorcee
I could get custody -- at least half --

PARIS (smiling at her agony): You're struggling needlessly.

HELEN: I know my will is free -- that's my philosophy.

PARIS (laughing): You're tempting Divinity!

HELEN (laughing, too): You're tempting me!
...An abduction from piety -- that's a new twist.
(Extending her hand) I won't resist.

(HELEN squeals as PARIS flings her on bed; they kiss as music fades, ending song. ZEUS ENTERS above in pj's, scratching back with lightning bolt.)

PARIS (touching HELEN in wonderment): Your eyes -- they're unbelievably bright. And your skin -- it's shimmering. Your hair's -- ambrosial.

HELEN (aside) Hyperaesthesia...(Touching PARIS) Gahds, this is so scary.

PARIS: I know whatcha mean, but it's not like we're -- uh, starting a war.

ZEUS (as lovers kiss again): If you gals don't mind, I'm tunin in th'games.

(APHRODITE, HERA and MUSES EXIT with a "drat!" look. Lights fade below as ZEUS looks away -- over radio static.)

SPORTS ANNOUNCER, OFF: Another fine Cretan morning and what a lineup we got here. Haven't seen so many heroes compete since Helen was single!

ZEUS (over laughs, off): Ever'body wants to be a hero. (Calling, off) Hey, Ganymede!

SPORTS ANNOUNCER, OFF: Vying now for the white bull with gilded horns is Prince Ajax of Salamis, ready with his javelin.

ZEUS (calling, off)): The last hero census, Boy -- haul that puppy out!

(GANYMEDE, a hunk in short tunic -- formerly seen as ANTILOCHUS and REPORTER -- rolls out huge stone tablet on handtruck.)

GANYMEDE: This is volume one, Sir.

ZEUS: Common as blackberries...No wonder I been feelin somewhat crowded.

Black.

Curtain Falls.


Interlude

Outside curtain on apron, site of Cretan funeral games, ARGIVES claim prizes from SPORTS ANNOUNCER with microphone. Crowned, IDOMENEUS sits on throne.

ANNOUNCER: To our champion javelin-hand, King Agamemnon of Mykenae, a golden helmet! Or will he trade it for what's behind the curtain?...No! He won't be overlooked on the battlefield in this classy number worth a dozen oxen!

(Black-bearded AGAMEMNON drains wine amphora).

CROWD, ON and OFF: He is as strong as Herakles; he is as strong as Herakles!

MENELAUS (a feeble shout as cheers subside): Yay, Bro! Way to g-go!

ANNOUNCER: And for Menelaus -- of the loud war-cry -- we have a terrific runner-up prize: a two-handled pan and this woman. She's skilled in all domestic crafts, and together they're worth five oxen!

(As MENELAUS accepts prizes, a RUNNER ENTERS down aisle and gives IDOMENEUS a scroll, whispers to ANNOUNCER, then EXITS.)

CROWD, ON and OFF: He is nearly as strong as Herakles! He is nearly --

ANNOUNCER: Newsflash, we hafta interrupt the ceremony for a special report... Signal fires've been sighted; word's drifting in heavily from the north and here's newly-crowned King Idomeneus with details...

IDOMENEUS (taking mike): Seems we have a Pelopid family emergency. Klytemnestra says run home, Agamemnon. Haul ass; your wife wants ya! (Laughter)...Now Menelaus' evidently doesn't; word is, she's split!...(After "punchline" drumroll) Queen's been snatched -- get this; don't miss this! -- by a houseguest!

MENELAUS (sputtering over drumroll and hilarity): P-Prince Paris, an abd-ductor!

IDOMENEUS: There's more! I can't stand it! The guy sailed off with the whole shipful of gifts he brought!...(After drumroll and hysteria) Great material, great! Whoever wrote this for me gets a ram...So who wrote it?

(ODYSSEUS EXITS rapidly as smoke drifts in.)

IDOMENEUS: Some clown wrote this; it can't be -- if it's true -- where's that guy?...(Running up aisle to ask audience) Where'd he go? I'm your sovereign, Cretans! 'Fess up! Where's the goddam messenger?

PRIZE WOMAN: Man, people are hip t'what you guys do to messengers.

ANNOUNCER (over CROWD murmurs): Folks, please! We'll get to the bottom of this prank soon, I'm sure, but now we have more prizes to award. Like this fantastic silver cup for the winner of the footrace --

CROWD, ON and OFF (coughing as smoke thickens): He is as swift as Hermes --

ANNOUNCER: And who is he? Laertes' son of the nimble wits, our wily pal, he's --

ARGIVES (together after looking around): Gone!

AGAMEMNON: If Odysseus ran out, he believes the story.

MENELAUS: He's s-so smart, he's always r-right!

(AGAMEMNON edges ANNOUNCER off to harangue like a filibustering politico.)

AGAMEMNON (taking microphone): Naturally this dire report impacts in a major way on the Argive Treaty Alliance. All heroes here present have sworn to defend in its every hour of need, the noble household of my brother...

(ARGIVES swap "oh shit" looks.)

AGAMEMNON: Thus we shall not, indeed cannot tolerate such an act of aggression and plain bad manners. This thief, rapist and ingrate, this Paris -- I will not call him "Prince" -- this housepest who betrayed all sacred laws of hospitality -- he must be pursued...Indeed we must pursue him unto Troy, which incidentally makes Mykenae Rich in Gold look like Trash City. The gods will then reward us for our pains! As we're required by honor, we shall punish the plunderer. We'll show him plunder!...(Showing map from his pocket) There's also the issue of King Priam's tribute. No more shall this tyrant exact a toll for each ship that passes the Hellespont, my fellow Akhaians --

MENELAUS: O h-hush! Helen, she's really been t-taken!

ARGIVES (together): Helen!...(Muttering as they leave) That sly Odysseus -- he vowed to stand with us...He's the brains of the outfit, he's gotta come, too.

(Led by MENELAUS, ARGIVES EXIT with warcries.)

AGAMEMNON (calling after them): Muster forces at Aulis -- and I expect a thousand ships there!

Black.



Third curtain's rising!