The Maids (2010)

The Maids (2010)
—for Jean Genet

MADAME’S BEDROOM. Kitschy Louis Quinze furniture. Lace. A balcony. Right, a bed. Left, a door and dressing table. Flowers in profusion. The time is after the New York Senate vote.

CLAIRE: You hate me, don’t you? You crush me with your attentions and your humbleness; you smother me with gladioli and mimosa.

SOLANGE: (On her knees, and very humble) I wish Madame to be lovely.

CLAIRE: (She primps in front of the mirror) I shall be lovely. Lovelier than you’ll ever be. With a face and body like that, you’ll never seduce the Senate. (Dropping the tragic tone) A bunch of ridiculous milkmen and lobbyists, they despise you. And you want to get married by them…to your lover?

SOLANGE: Oh! I’ve never—

CLAIRE: Am I to be at your mercy for having denounced your gay Monsieur to the people? You think I’ve suffered? What do I care if you ever get married or not. Who cares, and don’t sully my bedroom with your tears. Lay out my dress and jewels on the bed.

SOLANGE: I’ll do all in my power—

CLAIRE: (Ironically) What power? You’re nothing but a maid. Skip the business about your prayers and kneeling. (She laughs)

SOLANGE: They took all my money. My vote.

CLAIRE: (As if in adoration) And they promised you the moon. Silly child. Go clean the sink.

SOLANGE: (Arranging the dress on Claire’s hips) They promised me the moon. Instead I got the milkman in bed. Now I’m pregnant.

CLAIRE: Foolish girl. They arranged your fall from grace. (She kicks Solange in the temple with her Louis Quinze heel. Solange, who is kneeling, staggers and draws back)

SOLANGE: Madame is forgetting herself, Madame—

CLAIRE: (Mock shock, camp astonishment) Get away you bugger. Arrange my jewelry, you poor queer thing. You make me nauseous and disgusted.

SOLANGE: I’ll always be a maid. I might as well be one of the Blacks. Nothing will ever change.

CLAIRE: (Absentmindedly) You should’ve listened to me. You should’ve known your place. Kiss my ring.

SOLANGE: I trusted them. Senator Snide that nice Democrat from Poughkeepsie. He was such a nice man. And the insurance salesman. He said just sign here. And the doctor and gynecologist. All I got was a bill. And a preexisting condition.

CLAIRE: (Contemptuously) Your lovers! Yes, my child. Now you know. All they wanted was your money, your measly wages and your naïve vote…

SOLANGE: (She spits on the red dress)

CLAIRE: (Aghast) Oh! Oh! What’s the matter, Solange? Did I say something wrong?

SOLANGE: (Walking up to her) Yes, my proud Madame. You’re just like them. Only too willing to deprive me forever of the beauty of the sky, that you choose your perfumes and powders, your nail polish and silk and velvet and lace—and deprive me of them? Admit it—you and the Senators are thieves.

CLAIRE: (Panic-stricken) Solange! Solange!

SOLANGE: (She slaps Claire) Madame thought she was protected by her barricade of flowers, saved by some special Adam and Eve destiny, by the divine rights of Queens like Marie Antoinette? Let them eat cake—isn’t that what she said?

CLAIRE: Oh! Oh! DOMA! DOMA! Protect me!!!

SOLANGE: (She helps Claire to the balcony) Hush, hush, my little Beltway slut. Please don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s not good for morale, my dearest.

CLAIRE: I forbid you! How dare you be so impudent!

SOLANGE: (Pushing her toward the balcony) I’ve heard all that before. Shut up, you’ll scare all the maids and senators. Your faithful servants. You despise both them and me. You and your Mormon marquise, that Utah hunchback. The Baptist Baboon Boy and the pretty Mukluk Moose Woman.

CLAIRE: (Holding tight to the balcony’s edge) You can have anything you want, Solange. Just like in Vermont!!! So what if the Big Apple is rotten?

SOLANGE: (Helping her over the edge, in a sad tone of voice) You waste too much time with the preliminaries. I’ve heard all those promises too many times now…

CLAIRE: There’s still time, please! (She licks her lips, staring at her watch)

SOLANGE: (Shrugging her shoulders) You so love mingling your insults with empty promises.

CLAIRE: Don’t give up hope! The milkman always rings twice! The cow jumps over the moon! I promise to be a better petty tyrant! Your filthy garret—you can have air conditioning! I’ll get you a new job—a nice new maid’s position. Out-sourced to New Delhi or Mexico?

SOLANGE: (Ironically) A brand new IRA and condo? A new mortgage and a Ponzi bank account? What would a cleaning maid do with such guilty pleasures, Madame? (Shaking her head) You mean I wouldn’t have to kiss your ring? Or your big fat ass? Or what’s his name—that cute State Senator Rubén Díaz?

CLAIRE: (Shocked) Please Solange! Is that any way for a maid to talk?

SOLANGE: You sent my lover to Devil’s Island, to Guiana. You stuck your nose up—higher than the palm trees.

CLAIRE: The pie can be sliced only so many ways.

SOLANGE: We only got crumbs under your table.

CLAIRE: But it’s always been that way.

SOLANGE: Especially in New York and California.

CLAIRE: I’ll call Arnold right away!!!

SOLANGE: California is bankrupt.

CLAIRE: I’ll call Barney. Maybe he can help.

SOLANGE: (Smiling) Massachusetts?

CLAIRE: Give me time. We can work it out.

SOLANGE: (A long silence) Nothing comes easy. I’m sick and tired of kneeling in pews. And the back of the bus. Promises, promises. Look how I suffer. My sisters and I. Grief transfigures us, doesn’t it? Beautifies us, makes us more devoted servants?

CLAIRE: (Pleading) You can have my jewelry. My red velvet dresses and satin gowns. You can have my Cadillac as well as my chauffeur! My Liberace grand piano! My Las Vegas casino! Take it all!

SOLANGE: (Looking down from the balcony) But what would a maid do with all those riches? All I wanted was a husband and a honeymoon?

CLAIRE: Not that! What sacrilege! (Jumps off the balcony)

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