On the Verge
On the Verge (or The Geography of Yearning) is a play written by Eric Overmeyer. It makes extensive use of esoteric language and pop culture references from the late nineteenth century to 1955. The cast consist of three lady explorers and eight diverse beings they encounter on their travels, which include different times as well as different locations. The aforementioned eight characters are played by a single actor.
"Perhaps the imagination is on the verge of recovering its rights." -André Breton (paraphrased by Eric Overmyer)
"Before I began my travels in the uncharted reaches of the world, an avuncular colleague took me aside. 'I have heard your peregrinations are impelled, in part, by scientific curiosity,' he said. 'Allow me to offer you some sage counsel. Always take measurements, young lady. And always take them from the adult male.' Sound advice."
"English is the vehicle, and its engine is Empire."
"The civilizing mission of Woman is to reduce the amount of masculinity in the world. Not add to it by wearing trousers. The wearing of trousers - by women - leads inexorably to riding astride a horse. Instead of the modest sidesaddle."
"Ladies, shall we whack the bush?" (recurring quote)
"Comparatively dry. As jungles go, this one is almost arid. Oh, I have waded through swamps for hours on end, emerging at last with a frill of leeches around my neck like an astrakhan collar."
"The bane of my many travels in the tropics is a bland, mucilagenous paste called manioc, made from the forlorn and despicable cassava, a tuber of dubious provenance. A vile concoction, manioc tastes, in the best of recipes, like the bottom of a budgie's cage - and is more suited for masonry than human consumption. Manioc is the quintessential native chop, occuring circumglobularly in the tropics. For those with a taste for prussic acid, manioc may be just your cup of tea."
"When worn by a brawny warrior with nothing - but red paint - and a necklace of leopard tails - a calico blouse - is really quite - fetching"
"I haven't a thing to wear. I wish I could wash. Oh, what is life without a loofah!"
"There are two sorts of folks in the world. Those you eat with, and those you drink with. Cannibals you drink with."
"There is nothing so fascinating as fire."
"One evening near dusk, as we were negotiating the treacherous Black Quicksands of Baluchistan, I slipped off solid ground, and found myself sinking into infinite bog. Fortunately, my sturdy skirt ballooned around me, held its shape, and kept me buoyant until assistance arrived. A few moments later, I lost half a dozen porters in the blink of an eye. Sucked under the sand, like that! Fooop! Poor men weren't wearing skirts."
"I never got over being called 'Sir.'"
"Baby yeti may have yeti cronies. I think prudence dictates we move on."
"'Mysticism and Mesmerism in Madagascar' was a paper I delivered to the Ladies and Taboo Society of Annapolis. it was a sensation. I followed that with 'Tribadism in the Tropics' - which caused quite a stir. Rubbed several spectators the wrong way."
"At dawn and dusk, the essence of the jungle increases a hundredfold. The air becomes heavy with perfume. It throbs with unseen presence. A savage tapestry of squawks, cries, and caws presses upon one with an almost palpable pressure. A cacophonous echolalia - snarling, sinister menace - as though the sound of the jungle itself could tear one limb from limb."
"Whenever I must palaver with pasha or poobah I don this tonsorial getup. And lay out a formal tea. It never fails to impress."
"There's a question mark after it. It's a question."
"Men can be soooo trying."
"A petticoat is the only thing for punji sticks. A good stiff petticoat is worth its weight in gold. (snorts) Trousers in the tropics."
"I introduced croquet to the headhunters of the headwaters of the Putamayo. The sport of kings. They loved it. Simply adored the game. Of course, I insisted they use only regulation wooden balls. I would accept no substitutes. The rascals were always batting their latest trophies about. I was strict. They respected me for that."
"Abominable snowman was on the menu when I was last at the Explorer's Club. But I suspect it was yak. They pride themselves on their Native Chop. I always have something outlandish. Thinking about the Explorer's Club whets my appetite. We must stop for refreshment. On my last visit, we had bear chops, buffalo hump, glacé bees' knees, and armadillo knuckles. Which I for one never suspected armadillos had. Followed by muckleshoots, sweet and sour zebra, wolverine surprise, porcupine quills à la Louis quatorze, locust liqueur, and the celebrated moose mousse."
"Manifest Destiny and the American Way are not spheres."
(on cream cheese) "Not cream and not cheese, but it's thick and rich and comes in tins."
"I once encountered the Masai. I said: Wow! Wow! Wow! "
"I no savvy, as they say out west in Indian Territory."
"Have you ever had manioc fritters?"
"Yes, Mary, there are two sorts of people in the world. There are cannibals - and there are lunch."
"Your mother warned me you were hermetic."
"I am convinced that the modern craze for anthropology is actually a subterranean sexual inflammation, flimsily got up as scientific curiosity."
"The interjection of song lyrics into otherwise civilized conversation is strictly prohibited."
(on Richard Nixon) "You know, he rather resembles an orangutan in a dinner jacket."
"I don't know about all of you, but I do have a sudden craving. A burning desire. Intense, painful longing. (pause) For 'Cool Whip'."
"The film, it's called, captures the image. Like honey. Insects in amber. Silver nitrate. I have no way of printing the images. That requires a laboratory. Which would have meant porters."
"I have seen wonders in the Himalayas. Magic. Mystery. In Ladakh, it was a quotidian trick for the lamas to raise their body temperature by mere mental exertion. Sheer dint of will. They would sleep all night in snowbanks. At dawn, they would douse themselves in freezing streams. Then, ice-blue and on the verge of extinction, they would sit lotus and meditate ferociously. Instantly, steam would sizzle off them in clouds, rising past their furrowed brows. In an hour, their robes would be dry as toast - and neatly pressed."
"In the blue shadow of Crystal Mountain, I watched a Bon shaman wrap himself in his black cape, fold himself thrice, become a giant origami crow, flap flap flap his wings, rise into the sky, and fly across the saffron moon."
"In Lhasa, on the bone-white hill of the Potala, before the lunar congregation of Buddhist alchemists, I saw the Dalai Lama himself transmute great buckets of gold coins. Into yak butter."
"Trousers, ladies, are the future!"
"Fantastic! A jeweled jungle! I am extruded! I mean ecstatic. Not extruded."
"I am delicious! I mean delirious. Not delicious."
"Why can't a jungle be more like a park?"
"Mary, it is soggy. It is saturated. I have fungi growing on my corset stays."
"Fanny, you make the gorge rise."
"Funny word, native. Assuming he is a native. Everyone is a native of somewhere, when you think about it. So I guess he must a native at that. Where are you a native, Mary?"
Grover, et al
(note: Alphonse speaks with a German accent, and his part is written phonetically)
"Geography iz deztiny, ladies!"
"I haf not der foggiest notion vich vay Alsace-Lorraine iz. Schtraight up in der air, vy not, eh?"
"No! No! No! No eat! No eat! No eat Alphonse! No eat Alphonse! I am varningk you! I am schtringy! No eat Alphonse! Aaaaaiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!"
"No vay, José. I'm from right here at home. Dat vas him. Alphonse. Der von I ate. His uniform, his accent. His syntax. Zide effects. Occupational hazard. Hoppens everytime I eat schomevon."
"I should schtick to date bread. Delicious."
"Ja! I am a Free Mason! (pause) Or, radder, that little rascal Alphonse vas a Free Mason. Egxcuze me, ladies, I am, at der moment, a little confuzed."
"I'm just your grizz-a-ly bearm Fanny. What a snore, Fanny. You'll keep the leopards away."
"Don't be cross."
"Don't speculate on the future."
"What have we here but travelers three
Comin' cross the bridge to rap with me
In Xanadu said Ka-u-ba-la Khan
Hey there sweet things what 's going on?"
"This ain't Swahili, I gotta confess
You hearin' more if you talkin' less."
"Castigate the way I talk -
I'll agitate the way you walk!"
"Modern times, Fanny, modern times."
"If you venture on into the future, you'll eventually come across something called a Xerox."
"[Grover] hurled himself off the top of a grain silo. Part of a gentle rain of brokers who fell from heaven that autumn all over the country."
"Grover was speculating on the commodities market. Blue sky ventures. You know. Futures."
"See you later alligator!"
- Eric Overmyer; On the Verge; Broadway Play Publishing Inc.; ISBN 0-88145-046-4 (fifth edition, paperback, 2000)