Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Notes For a Short Play About Frank Wisner

Frank Wisner, co-founder of the CIA, sits in the second floor study of his Georgetown mansion, haunted by the Cold War to the point of death. He begins the play cleaning, and then loading, a double-barreled shotgun which he then leans in a far corner of the room. In Wisner's desk drawer, he has stored a consignment of LSD, pure company grade, tested on movie stars, soon to burst upon the sixties like a raincloud of deadly lethargy. He is debating whether to take the drug throughout the first act. A close friend or two may drop by to see him. His wife brings him something to eat. Then he takes the drug. Second Act: the Trip. Wisner is haunted by the train cars full of Romanians shipped off to death camps by the Soviets. We see the Cold War from Wisner's perspective, as a true fight between good and evil, embodied in the free flowing form of liberty, a maiden of the West, clutching her sword, Excalibur, which Wisner reaches for but cannot hold. Her dark twin, the bloody lipped white figure of death, who transforms from the maiden into a crone, keeps the sword from his grasp. A motion picture projects the image of train cars against the far wall of the set, hands reaching out from the boxcars like images of the Jews taken by the Nazis, clutching at the air. Wisner writhes on the floor in agony, talking in tongues about the tortures of the Romanian people under the communist regime. His own self-torture is interrupted by a time-traveler from the future, a graduate student who has come to study a few particular sessions of late sixties jazz. They have a discussion for a few minutes about history, the Cold War perhaps, with Wisner discussing his motivations for various intelligence endeavors, before the time-traveler realizes he has arrived too early in the time stream, and the particular jazz sessions he wishes to study have not yet been recorded, and in fact will not be recorded for some time, too long to wait. The erstwhile young grad student will have to scrap the mission and return to the future. At some point in the second act, Wisner is naked. He recites the line from the Bob Dylan song: "Even the President of the United States, sometimes must have to stand naked." Third ACT: Wisner recovers from his psychedelic ordeal. He has a few discussions on the phone about the drug, which Wisner sees as a  tool to blunt the edge of the "counter culture." He makes a brief speech to the audience, escaping the fourth wall, wherein he discusses various particulars of his intelligence career, touching on the use of ex-Nazis by the Allies after the war to fight the Soviets, and perhaps touching on issues of the present day which the real Wisner would have no way of knowing, but nonetheless, we are left with an impression that perhaps this is not the first time Wisner has been contacted by visitors from the future. Then he goes to the corner of the room, picks up the double-barreled shotgun which he cleaned and loaded at the outset of the play, sits down in an easy chair, cradling the shotgun in his lap. The stage goes black.

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