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Illustration by Ibrahim Kombarji
Illustration by Ibrahim Kombarji

Characters

Yasma Early twenties.

Naji Yasma's father, in his fifties.

Fernande Barakat A single mother of two, in her late thirties. Playful, daring. Marlene and Olivier Fernande Barakat’s children.

Awad The building’s concierge, in his late twenties, Egyptian.

Ali The chauffeur.

Riad Halabi The building’s owner, in his late fifties.

Sylvie Karam An elegant woman in her fifities.

Robert Karam Sylvie Karam’s eldest son, in his early twenties.

Jean-Michel Karam Sylvie Karam’s younger son.

Kamil Saleh A man of thought, single, in his forties.

SCENE ONE

As the audience enters, Yasma and her father are seated on a modern brown divan in the middle of the stage facing the audience. They are waiting for something. She wears a trendy white dress and has her hair tied up in a ponytail. Her father wears a shirt and a pair of jeans. Behind them, upstage right, is a small blue sign with the white inscription: 1)Rejoice, you are in Zouk Mikael. “إبتهج أنت في ذوق مكايلˮ  Two workers enter the stage carrying a large metallic door that will soon be the façade of an ancient elevator. They place it downstage left and then proceed to lift the divan with Yasma and her father still sitting on it, either unaware or unfazed by the sudden elevation. After some confusion, as the workers reposition the lifted and occupied piece of furniture, they place it down upstage right. They then begin to build the elevator. For a moment, all we hear is the conversation of metal on metal: hammering, clinking, wrenching.

YASMA

Dad?

NAJI

Hmm.

The sounds of the metallic portal increase in volume and rhythm. This attracts Naji’s attention.

YASMA

(over the sound of construction)

When did the Halabis move here?

NAJI

Ouf, I don’t really know honey. All I remember is that it was in the seventies, well in the late seventies, seventy-seven, seventy-eight, I would say. Something like that.

YASMA

Why don’t you remember?

NAJI

Because it doesn't matter. Who cares about the year they arrived, the year they left… The timeline has nothing to do with it.

YASMA

I do. Why doesn’t it matter? Of course it does.

NAJI

That’s not the point, Yassouma. That’s not the point. Look at them, look…just look.

He points to the elevator door. The workers are putting on the finishing touches. Before they exit the stage, they erect a small sign in front of the metallic portal 2)Riad Halabi's building “مبنى رياض حلبي”  The stage is now divided into two different settings and while Yasma and her father are still on one side of it, the other side is transporting us to another time: Fernande Barakat, Marlene, and Olivier appear on stage. The children carry large suitcases and are cautious, almost disturbed by this new setting. Fernande Barakat, dressed daringly, carries herself with dazzling carelessness.

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Awad! Awad!

Awad enters, rushing to greet her.

AWAD

3)What is it, oh lady of ladies? في ايه يا ست الكل؟

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Awad, please help the children with their suitcases and make sure they open all the windows

in the apartment as soon as they get in, I don’t want it to smell like fresh paint. Marlene is very allergic.

A pause.

Oh, and Awad…please unbutton my bra. This thing is smothering me.

AWAD

4)Sure, Ms. Fernande. ماشي يا ست فرناند.إنت بتأمري

He starts unbuttoning her bra: time slows down. Or speeds up. In any case, we are made privy to something that does not concern us. Ali, the chauffeur, carrying more luggage than he should, appears on stage. As soon as he reaches the elevator, he drops all the suitcases on the floor. He is spent.

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Bonjour Ali. Don’t tell me that Sylvie Karam couldn’t stand being away from me and decided to move in here on the same day!

ALI

(confused)

No, it’s not that, well, you know, tomorrow’s a public holiday, the roads will be closed, and well you know it’s not that… I don’t really know, you know, I’m just the chauffeur, you know?

AWAD

 5)Enough Ali, it's okay, we got it ما تبس يا علي فهمنا خلص

Fernande Barakat turns to the children

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Go on mama, I’m just going to smoke a cigarette and follow you in a bit

Awad and the kids get into the elevator and press a button. The three of them disappear under the stage. Fernande lights a cigarette. As she is inhaling, a new family appears on stage

Sylvie Karam, elegant and short-haired, enters with her two sons Robert and Jean-Claude (who is wearing red ballerinas). They wait for the elevator

FERNANDE BARAKAT

 شو ؟ 6)So? Or what?, I thought you weren’t moving in until next week

SYLVIE KARAM

(without really looking at her)

Bonjour Fernande

FERNANDE BARAKAT

(to Sylvie’s sons)

Hello, حياتي 7)Term of endearment: my life . . How are you?

She approaches them and gives each a flirtatious hug. 

(to Sylvie)

Your children are wonderful.

SYLVIE KARAM

Come on, boys.

The elevator arrives. They try opening its metallic door but it seems to be stuck. When it finally opens, all of them get in. Fernande Barakat stands in front of Robert, the eldest Karam son. Her hand disappears between his legs as the elevator starts to move. 

SYLVIE KARAM

Hands off, Fernande Barakat!

The stage is now empty except for Yasma and her father who are still seated on the divan. It is now late in the afternoon, sometime around six pm. The lights and sounds on stage differ from when Fernande Barakat occupied it and now they echo the part of the day when one starts to feel cold, lonely, and nostalgic.

YASMA

Dad.

NAJI

Hmm.

YASMA

I don’t really understand why Aunty Fernande moved in before Uncle Riad. It is his building after all; he should have been the first one to move in. I think you got it all mixed up, it doesn’t make sense.

NAJI

I already told you Yassouma, it doesn’t matter.

YASMA

But…

NAJI

Shhh, shhh, there he is, there he is.

Yasma is less interested by this part of the story. Naji and Riad Halabi enter.

NAJI and RIAD HALABI

(at the same time; Naji is mocking Riad Halabi)

Awad my dear, how many times should we talk about this? Why aren’t you cleaning Mister Kamil’s car properly every week?

RIAD HALABI

Awad! Awad!

AWAD

.الكلام ده موش مظبوط يا أستاذ رياض

.أنا بنظف السيارة كل يومين تلات زي ما تفقنا

بس إلباشمهندس كميل

إزاي كده

8)This is not true, Mister Riad, and you know it. I clean the car every two or three days just as we agreed, but I really don't know what engineer Mister Kamil's deal is, he's always edgy and nothing makes him happy! معرفش، بيظل مقشر و مش عاجبو حاجة


RIAD HALABI

I know dear, I know, but I also know that next time you won’t disappoint me, right?

He puts ten liras in Awad’s pocket.

Mister Kamil is a very important tenant and we don’t want to upset him. مش 9)Alright?كدا ؟

AWAD

10)Of course Sir, of course.كدا يا به! أنت تأمر

For some reason, Naji finds all of this hysterically funny and laughs at the memory unfolding before him. Simultaneously, Riad Halabi gets into the elevator and disappears under stage. Yasma and her father are alone again. Naji will not stop laughing. He lies down on the divan. 

Blackout.

SCENE TWO

The setting of the stage is kept the same. In the dark, we hear Awad clearing his throat and testing out some popular Egyptian song through a loud speaker. Lights up on Fernande Barakat and her children: she is wearing a gold and beige “nuisette,” and the children are in pajamas. It is much too early in the morning and they are still sleepy.

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Awad, this is unacceptable! Nobody told us that you were going to spray the building today! Also, this is not the way to wake people up!

A short pause.

I had a rough night yesterday, you know…

Awad is wearing a white protective suit that covers his entire body and his face. In his hand is a loud speaker.

AWAD

(through the loud speaker)

11)Just calm down, Ms. Fernande, you're right, but what can we do?!إهدي بس يا ست فرناند، حقك علينا بس نعمل إيه بأى

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Non, Awad non! Where is Riad Halabi? I want to speak to him right now!

Riad Halabi, appears on stage in his night robe.

RIAD HALABI

(buckling his robe)

Bonjour, Fernande Barakat.

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Riad, honey, this is not acceptable. You cannot suddenly decide to spray the entire building without notifying me!  Non, Riad, non.

RIAD HALABI

Calm down, Fernande, we are all in this together. Awad was supposed to do this next week, but he got mixed up with the dates and ordered the equipment for today. And since he has to return everything by five pm... Be easy, my dear, there is a war going on…

AWAD

(through the loud speaker)

12)Enough Ms. Fernande, you are a hundred percent right. Just let it go. I swear on the life of the prophet.!خلاص يا ست فرناند، حقك علينا، بس طريها وحياة النبي

He is interrupted by the arrival of Kamil Saleh and the Karams. Fernande Barakat lights up a cigarette.

SYLVIE KARAM

What’s going on?

RIAD HALABI

Nothing at all, I was just telling Fernande that Awad –

KAMIL SALEH

(interrupting Riad)

I knew that Awad had something to do with it!

AWAD

(through the loudspeaker)

13)Did you hear that Mister Riad? I did not say anything!!سمعت بودنك يا أستاذ رياض؟ أنا ما قلتش حاجة

RIAD HALABI

Mister Kamil, don’t blame him, things have been hectic for him since the move!

Give him a break.

AWAD

(through the loudspeaker)

14)There's no one like you, Mister Riad!!أنت ما فيش منك يا أستاذ رياض

Awad gets into the elevator and disappears under the stage. Kamil Saleh’s full attention is now directed towards Fernande Barakat. He approaches her. Sylvie Karam and her children observe them.

KAMIL SALEH

(singing)

Fleur de Lyss ouvre tes cuisses

pour que je glisse

ma p’tite saucisse 

entre tes jambes.

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Amour, how are you today?

KAMIL SALEH

Tired.

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Me too.

(She laughs)

ROBERT KARAM

(looking at Kamil Saleh)

I’m going to kill him!

SYLVIE KARAM

Did you say something?

Robert Karam kicks the elevator door. 

RIAD HALABI

15)For God's sake, Uncle. عمو ولو؟ What’s gotten into you?

Robert Karam gives it another kick. And another and another…

RIAD HALABI

Talk to your son Sylvie! This door cost me a fortune!

SYLVIE KARAM

Robert! Yi, Restrain yourself, 16)Mamaماما

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Leave him alone, Sylvie,  17) “May he bury me” – an Arabic expression implying deep affection. يقبرني, he's jealous.

SYLVIE KARAM

Excuse me?

FERNANDE BARAKAT

(to Robert Karam)

Don’t worry,  18)My life حياتي,  , I will make it up to you later this evening.

Robert looks the other way. 

SYLVIE KARAM

Are you about done, Fernande Barakat?

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Not quite, my dear.

RIAD HALABI

Well, I believe that you have done enough.

Sylvie puts on her sunglasses.

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Awad! Hurry, Ms. Karam is getting tired.

Ten seconds of silence: a standoff. Awad appears on stage.

AWAD

(through the loudspeaker)

19)I just finished Ms. Fernande, happy?!عاجبك كدا يا ست فرناند؟ أديني خلصت

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Un amour, ya Awad!

She blows him a kiss and heads towards the elevator door followed by everyone except for Sylvie Karam, who is looking the other way.

AWAD

(through the loudspeaker)

20) Come on Ms. Sylvie, get into the elevator!!اركبي، يا ست سيلفي

SYLVIE KARAM

Don’t worry about me Awad, I’ll catch the next one.

AWAD

(through the loudspeaker)

21)Oh come on Ms. Sylvie, get in!!ما تركبي يا ست سيلفي

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Oh come on Ms. Sylvie, get in! 22)Oh yes please! Get in!والنبي تركبي

All the characters except for Yasma and Naji freeze.

NAJI

Wait. I don’t think that this is the way it happened – something is missing. Your grandmother was angry that day. She was angry at your grandfather. Really angry. Because he couldn’t get the  23)Baked open-faced breakfast bread with toppings such as cheese and zaatarمناقيش  she had ordered from the  24) Bakeryفرن that morning… It was raining, that’s why. See that honey, it was raining!

Yasma nods. We can now hear the sounds of the wind and the rain. The characters unfreeze. Sylvie Karam gets into the elevator very embarrassed. She tries closing its metallic door but we feel as if the wind is stopping her. Awad comes to her help. When they finally close it, the characters disappear under the stage.

SCENE THREE

YASMA

Why did they even move here?

NAJI

I don’t know. The war, I guess.

YASMA

Was it that bad?

NAJI

What do you think?

YASMA

25)Grandma.تيتة, says they ruined Zouk Mikael.

NAJI

Your تيتة says many things.

Awad appears on stage. He is carrying a can of white paint and a brush in one hand and a bouquet of white magnolias and a newspaper in the other. He puts the bouquet on the floor and starts painting the elevator’s metallic door. We suddenly hear the voice of Fernande Barakat through the interphone by the elevator. 

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Awad! Awad!

AWAD

26)Ms. Fernande?ست فرناند؟

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Awad, it is me! I need you to send me today’s newspaper, please. Tell me as soon as you put it in the elevator so I can press the button before anyone else does. Don’t forget to tell me this time!

AWAD

27)You better believe it Ms. Fernande. I just knew you were going to call me right now. That's why I brought you a surprise.تصدقي يا ست فرناند أنا كنت عارف إنك حتكلمني  دلوقتي، عشان كدا حضرتلك مفاجأة

FERNANDE BARAKAT

I can’t hear you, Awad! Your voice is muffled!

AWAD

(lips glued to the interphone, screaming)

28)I was just saying that I knew you were going to call me right now and that... أنا بقول يا ست فرناند إني كنت عارف إنك حتكلمني دلوقتي عشا

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Awad, I can’t hear you! Stop screaming and step away from the speaker!

He steps back, catches his breath, fixes his hair, and tries again.

AWAD

(screaming)

29)I was just saying...أنا بقول يا ست فرناند

He is interrupted by the voice of Riad Halabi coming through the interphone.

RIAD HALABI

Awad, why are you screaming? Keep your voice down, everyone can hear you!

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Riad? Riad? Where is Awad?

AWAD

30)I'm right here Ms. Fernande, don't worry about me! أنا هنا يا ست فرناند ما تخافيش عليا!

FERNANDE BARAKAT

Riad? Can you ask Awad to get me my newspaper please? I don’t know where he went!

RIAD HALABI

What? I can’t hear anything? Is that you Fernande Barakat?

AWAD

31)Don't worry about me Ms. Fernande, I'm right here! I even brought you flowers! I'll get them to you right now, don't move I'm coming up! ما تخافيش يا ست فرناند أنا هنا! و جايبلك ورد كمان! حطلعهم لك دلوقتي ما تخافيش!

He grabs the bouquet, the newspaper, gets into the elevator and disappears under the stage.

Yasma and her father are alone on the stage again; they are facing the elevator door. Suddenly we hear the sound of an explosion. Yasma does not react. Her father is whistling a certain melody. A moment later, he gets up and seems very confused.

NAJI

I don’t think that happens now.

YASMA

But dad, you said it didn’t matter.

NAJI 

(confused)

I don't know…It doesn’t feel like that anymore.

Ten seconds of silence.

NAJI

Are they gone? … Is…is it gone?

YASMA

Is what gone?

NAJI

Is…this…all gone?

YASMA

I don't know dad, is it?

Five seconds of silence.

NAJI

Shame.

YASMA

I know.

He helps her carry the divan. As they leave the stage, two workers appear and they start taking the metallic elevator door apart. All we can hear is the sound of their hammers on the metallic portal. They disable the elevator, and carry the old fashioned door offstage. 

Blackout.

Contributor
Tonia Khalil

Tonia Khalil was born and raised in Zouk Mikael, Lebanon. She recently graduated in Business Administration from the American University of Beirut. Tonia has always had a passion for the theatre; she even started out as an Architecture major because her dream was to build her own theatre one day.

Contributor
Ibrahim Kombarji

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1. Rejoice, you are in Zouk Mikael.
2. Riad Halabi's building
3. What is it, oh lady of ladies?
4. Sure, Ms. Fernande.
5. Enough Ali, it's okay, we got it
6. So? Or what?
7. Term of endearment: my life
8. This is not true, Mister Riad, and you know it. I clean the car every two or three days just as we agreed, but I really don't know what engineer Mister Kamil's deal is, he's always edgy and nothing makes him happy!
9. Alright?
10. Of course Sir, of course.
11. Just calm down, Ms. Fernande, you're right, but what can we do?
12. Enough Ms. Fernande, you are a hundred percent right. Just let it go. I swear on the life of the prophet.
13. Did you hear that Mister Riad? I did not say anything!
14. There's no one like you, Mister Riad!
15. For God's sake, Uncle.
16. Mama
17. “May he bury me” – an Arabic expression implying deep affection.
18. My life
19. I just finished Ms. Fernande, happy?
20. Come on Ms. Sylvie, get into the elevator!
21. Oh come on Ms. Sylvie, get in!
22. Oh yes please! Get in!
23. Baked open-faced breakfast bread with toppings such as cheese and zaatar
24. Bakery
25. Grandma.
26. Ms. Fernande?
27. You better believe it Ms. Fernande. I just knew you were going to call me right now. That's why I brought you a surprise.
28. I was just saying that I knew you were going to call me right now and that...
29. I was just saying...
30. I'm right here Ms. Fernande, don't worry about me!
31. Don't worry about me Ms. Fernande, I'm right here! I even brought you flowers! I'll get them to you right now, don't move I'm coming up!
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