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from the March 2006 issue

from Night Sings Its Songs

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: Natta Syng Sine Songar by Jon Fosse was first presented by the Rogaland Theatre in Stavanger, Norway in 1997. The English translation, Night Sings Its Songs, was translated and directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde for the U.S. debut of the play, and was first presented by Oslo Elsewhere, The Unbound Theatre, and Spring Theatreworks at the Culture Project's 45 Bleecker Theatre - 45 Below in New York City on June 5, 2004.

Yah = Norwegian "ja" = yes Yah = American "yeah", only not so nasal, please. It lives somewhere between "ja" and "yeah" and each character can find a way to play with how they use their "yah's"

Also, Yah = yes, so, well, yep, hmm, OK, fine, oh, sure, yeah, uh-huh, tsk, ugh . . .

These other words should not be inserted in place of the "yah" because the repetition is important, but rather the translator encourages the creative team to find ways into the sound that allow the repetition to help tell the story without putting too much emphasis on the "yah".



Black. Lights up. A living room, a sofa, an easy chair and a coffee table a bit to the right at the front of the stage. A large window at the back a bit to the left; it is light outside. On the right side of the window, somewhat high up, hangs a clock; it shows 2:45 p.m. Under the clock, a bit to the right, hangs a picture of a baby boy. To the left side of the window is an unusually large sideboard. One door in the short wall on the left, and one door in the short wall on the right. The young man lies on the sofa, reading a book.

THE YOUNG WOMAN Comes in from the door on the right I cannot stand it anymore Short pause No I can't handle it We can not live like this The young man sits up slowly, closes the book, but keeps his place with his index finger You lie there reading You don't go out You don't do anything She rattles off a list We don't have any money You don't have any work We don't have anything She goes and sits down in the easy chair And y'know you go out less and less before at least you went to the store to buy food went to the post office I mean you've never liked going on walks I have always loved to go on walks Before yah before I met you I always went on long walks Every Sunday I went on a walk And other days too And I had friends maybe not a ton of friends but I had friends girlfriends But they they never really come here Not even Marte comes over anymore She'll ring the doorbell stand outside and talk to me but she won't come inside Because you just sit there radiating gloom My girlfriends came here a few times but you just sat there stiff and awkward didn't say a word Laughs resignedly What an atmosphere No it was unbearable and that's why Looks at him It's no wonder they don't come anymore No one comes here Short pause You're not OK You can't stand people Yah The young man sighs, looks at her No I can't handle much more of this The young man nods. Pause And now that someone is finally coming to visit it's your parents

THE YOUNG MAN Defensively It just so happens your parents come here too Short pause Not so long since the last time they were here Besides I'm not the one who asked my parents to come

THE YOUNG WOMAN Well at least they won't stay very long

THE YOUNG MAN Yah yah Short pause. He looks at her It's not that strange That they want to see their grandchild though Somewhat angry Isn't that allowed They're coming here to see their grandchild You understand that There isn't any other reason they would come

THE YOUNG WOMAN Yah yah Short pause And it is about time they come to see the baby Hard to believe they're interested at all They could have come before Yah I mean that The young man looks down. Pause

THE YOUNG MAN They just don't want to be a burden

Yah well they have to come
Of course
Of course they have to come
She looks around the living room, sighs
So I guess I have to clean up
before your parents arrive
It should be nice and clean
when a mother-in-law comes to visit
isn't that right
The young man puts the book on the table, rises and walks around the room
You can stay put
Stay put
I can't handle watching you
pace around the room
I'll straighten up
So don't you worry
The young man goes back to the sofa; sits down
I'll take care of everything
You just relax
just keep reading your book
Just keep reading
She laughs a bit
Or maybe you would like to
go do the shopping
He looks with some trepidation at her
Or do I have to do that too
I'll do the shopping
clean the house
fix food for your parents
No you can do the shopping

THE YOUNG MAN Reluctantly Yah

THE YOUNG WOMAN Surprised, questioning You dare to go out But you don't dare go to the store anymore The young man shakes his head, resignedly So why are you saying yah

THE YOUNG MAN Should I have said no

THE YOUNG WOMAN No you just lie there lie there just lie there and read Short pause

THE YOUNG MAN I can clean up the house

THE YOUNG WOMAN Good Short pause, ironically But shouldn't you be writing now Reading How's it going with your writing anyway Are you writing Or are you just lying on the sofa

THE YOUNG MAN Thinks of something. Short pause. With a little enthusiasm Well actually I think maybe yah I sent something to a publisher a while ago

THE YOUNG WOMAN You sent something to a publisher

THE YOUNG MAN Nods Yah Short pause But they probably won't want it

THE YOUNG WOMAN I'm sure it'll be OK The young man nods. Suddenly supportive I think it will You know you've Short pause yah ever since I've known you you've just been writing and writing The years add up after awhile With you writing and writing The young man nods Writing and more writing abruptly Shhhhh Did you hear something The young man shakes his head Is he crying The young man again shakes his head I can go check on him The young woman exits the door to the left, and the young man takes the book, leafs through the pages looking for his place, lies down on the sofa, finds his place and begins to read. The young woman comes in again

No are you reading again We have so much to do Weren't you going to clean up the house The young man closes the book, marking his place with his index finger

THE YOUNG MAN He's asleep

THE YOUNG WOMAN Yah Short pause You don't want to go shopping The young man looks at her, desperately pleading

You wouldn't dare No She resignedly shakes her head No I cannot handle much more of this You never go out I don't understand you Almost crying I can not handle much more The young man sits up, looks desperately around him. The young woman shakes her head, resignedly. No Pause. The doorbell rings. The young woman looks at the young man. Your parents Are they here already They were supposed to come later well He looks toward her, confused You think it's your parents He remains seated, puts the book on the coffee table.

Should I open the door He just sits there, and she exits the door to the right. He gets up, goes to the window, looks out, turns, looks toward the door on the right where a man in his 60s appears, dressed in a blue quilted down parka, he is carrying a brown shopping bag,the father looks down, looks up when he sees the young man, takes the bag in his other hand and, with his arm outstretched and head bowed, goes toward the young man, they meet and shake hands but they do not look at each other.

FATHER Yah hello hello And I must congratulate you on the baby

THE YOUNG MAN Thank you thank you The young woman and mother come in, the mother has a coat on, the young man looks toward the mother

MOTHER Oh there you are there you are She puts her hand out, goes toward the young man, who goes toward the mother, they shake hands, she stands there, holding his hands And I must congratulate you on the little one She looks toward the young woman, lets go of his hands Oh this is so nice Finally we get to see our grandchild I have Looks toward the father yah we have waited a long time for this haven't we

FATHER Drags out the word Yah

MOTHER Decisively Yah we have Toward the young woman But where is the child

THE YOUNG WOMAN He's sleeping In the bedroom

MOTHER Ah But I need to see him right away The young woman nods. The father looks around, confused, doesn't really know what he should be doing, remains standing

THE YOUNG MAN Toward the father You can have a seat

FATHER Oh yah thank you The father goes and sits down in the easy chair, sets the bag by the chair, the young woman and the mother go toward the door to the left

MOTHER Toward the father You have to come too You've got to see the little one

FATHER No no I can wait until he wakes up The mother goes out the door and the young woman follows her Pause Toward the young man Yah so this is where you live

THE YOUNG MAN I live here yah

FATHER Yah hmmmm. Pause

THE YOUNG MAN And you is everything OK with you two

FATHER Everything's basically the same yah

THE YOUNG MAN With the others back there too

FATHER Yah I can't think of any news not off hand anyway

THE YOUNG MAN Well that's how it goes

FATHER Yah Pause And you are well

THE YOUNG MAN I can't complain Things are pretty much the same

FATHER Somewhat abruptly But do you have any work The young man shakes his head No well It's probably not that easy to find something to do though


FATHER But you (two) are getting by

THE YOUNG MAN Reluctantly, drags it out Yah

FATHER Looks around him You have a nice place in any case And it's pretty central right


FATHER But it must be expensive to live here

THE YOUNG MAN Pretty expensive Pause

FATHER But you (two) are getting by

THE YOUNG MAN We are Laughs a bit in a way anyhow

FATHER Yah we had to come into town me and your mother Had some errands to run So we just had to Stops himself abruptly

THE YOUNG MAN Yah well that's how it goes A crying baby is heard

FATHER Looks at the young man I guess he woke up

THE YOUNG MAN Yah Pause He sleeps most of the day

FATHER He doesn't cry too much The young man shakes his head; the crying subsides

THE YOUNG MAN I guess he calmed down again Short pause He sleeps a lot yah

FATHER Yah well that's how it goes Short pause Well we just thought we'd stop by since we were down in town anyway yah

THE YOUNG MAN Yah makes sense Short pause

FATHER We won't be long just stopping by

THE YOUNG MAN Yah Short pause. The young woman comes in

THE YOUNG WOMAN He woke up for a second but he went to sleep again right away The mother comes in

MOTHER Toward the young woman It was stupid of me to wake him up I didn't mean to do that no that was really stupid She goes and takes a seat on the sofa Toward the father You have to see him A beautiful little boy You have to see him

FATHER Yah The young woman exits the door to the right

MOTHER Toward the father It's not easy to tell who he looks like but My he's beautiful He certainly doesn't look like you Then looks toward the young man And not you either No he definitely doesn't look like you at all Short pause And he doesn't look like me either as a matter of fact And not Nods toward the door to the right like her either Quietly toward the young man But how are things with you two

THE YOUNG MAN Oh yes everything's fine thanks

MOTHER Worried And the baby's doing well

THE YOUNG MAN Yah everything's fine

MOTHER But Stops abruptly. Short pause. She looks at the father, he looks down. Pause

THE YOUNG MAN Toward the mother So you came into town today yah

MOTHER Yah we had to come and meet the little one

THE YOUNG MAN Yah Short pause Toward the mother And you had some errands to run


MOTHER Hurriedly But we mainly came to Stops abruptly as the young woman comes in

THE YOUNG WOMAN I guess I should go out and get some food for the guests Laughs a bit

MOTHER AND FATHER Both talking almost at once No not at all No need to

THE YOUNG MAN Yah you surprised us a bit

MOTHER Yah we came a bit early Toward the young woman Yah please forgive us

THE YOUNG WOMAN It's OK MOTHER Toward the young woman We just wanted to stop by for a few minutes We should go soon in explanation Yah they've changed the bus schedule

THE YOUNG WOMAN Toward the father But you have to see him you too

FATHER Looks shyly down; drags out the word Yah

THE YOUNG WOMAN You two Looks toward the young man, then at the father why don't you go and have a look at him

FATHER Oh it can wait

THE YOUNG WOMAN No go on and have a look at him

THE YOUNG MAN Gets up Yah come on The father gets up, and the young man and the father exit the door to the left. Pause

THE YOUNG WOMAN But I should really run to the store now so I can offer you something I was on my way out the door when you came

MOTHER Hurriedly No you don't need to We have to go soon The bus leaves soon you know Short pause We we were just stopping by for a moment


MOTHER We just had to see the little one since we were in town anyway Looks toward her Yah my he's beautiful


MOTHER Yah he really is a beautiful baby Yah you've been lucky Short pause And everything's going well with both you and the baby

THE YOUNG WOMAN Nothing unusual everything's happened the way it's supposed to Everything's fine

MOTHER Well that's good Pause And you're on maternity leave from your job


MOTHER It's so nice that you have a little time to be with the baby Pause Yah we brought a little present Laughs lightly of course She goes to her bag, lifts it up, places it on the seat of the easy chair, unzips the bag, takes out a package, then remains standing with the package in her hands

No well it's nothing much just something small We wanted to bring something for the baby She hands the package to the young woman

THE YOUNG WOMAN Takes it Thank you so much That's very nice

MOTHER It's nothing much The young woman remains standing, fidgeting with the wrapping paper, doesn't really know what she should do Short pause Yah that is one fine baby The mother shakes her head. The father comes in the door. Expectantly, toward the father What do you think

FATHER Formally, with emphasis on each word Yah he is a fine boy The mother looks meaningfully toward the young woman, the young man enters, he sees that the young woman stands and fidgets with the package. Short pause

THE YOUNG MAN toward the young woman We got a present She nods Maybe we should open it Toward the mother and father Yah thank you very much The young woman sits down on the sofa, begins to open the package

MOTHER Self-deprecatingly It's nothing much just a small thing

THE YOUNG WOMAN Opens the package, and takes out a blue blanket, holds it in front of her, and then holds it up toward the young man

This is nice


MOTHER It's so difficult to know what to buy It's just a little something The young woman lays the blanket on the coffee table, gets up, takes the wrapping paper with her and exits the door to the right The mother picks up the blanket, looks at it Toward the father Yah wasn't he beautiful

FATHER Briefly smiles to himself Yes Short pause But who does he look like

MOTHER Who knows She folds the blanket, places it on the coffee table

FATHER No I can't tell

MOTHER Not like you in any case


MOTHER Maybe like Abruptly stops No I don't know The father goes and sits down in the easy chair Toward the young man Yah you've got a beautiful son The young woman comes in, she has put on a jacket The mother toward the young woman, hurriedly

No don't trouble yourself We're just about to leave That's how it is today They've changed the bus schedule She looks at the father Isn't that right

FATHER Pulls up the arm of the parka, looks at his watch Yah we have to go soon Looks at the mother It's just about time

MOTHER Looks at the young woman, explaining We just wanted to meet the little one

FATHER Yah this is just a quick visit The father gets up, takes the bag and lifts it up, pulls the zipper shut and then walks across to the center of the room

MOTHER Gets up, and she also walks across to the center of the room Yah we'll save a longer visit for another time But today that's how it is

FATHER Toward the young man Yah you know there aren't that many buses running these days

MOTHER toward the young woman It's actually the last bus of the day

THE YOUNG MAN Questioning They have stopped running the other routes

FATHER Yah Short pause At the young man But you should really drop by our place all three of you

MOTHER Agreeing Yah you really must do that In the summer when it's light and warm out you really should come out and visit us then OK THE YOUNG MAN Yah well thanks for stopping by Short pause And it'll be a longer visit next time The mother and father go toward the door to the right I'll walk you to the door The mother and father go through the door, but stop, they look at the young woman

MOTHER Yah this was short But that's how it is when one doesn't think to check the bus schedule Yah take care and goodbye

FATHER Yah goodbye The mother and father go out the door to the right. The young man goes after them, the young woman goes and sits down in the easy chair, opens her legs wide apart, looks a little dejected. Pause. The young man comes back. The young woman gets up and walks across to the center of the room, the young man goes and sits down in the easy chair.

THE YOUNG WOMAN To the young man Now you see No one wants to be here Not even your parents They practically left before they had arrived Had a quick peek at the baby Talked a bit about who he looks like and doesn't look like and then just left Short pause They hardly believed that you were the father She laughs a bit. The young man gets up, lies down on the sofa. Pause I don't think they liked him at all

THE YOUNG MAN Irritated Of course they did

THE YOUNG WOMAN Well I don't know

THE YOUNG MAN Yes they did Why are you saying that

THE YOUNG WOMAN Maybe they liked him

THE YOUNG MAN They liked him of course They liked him a lot

THE YOUNG WOMAN Yah I guess they did OK Pause But I guess I should go shopping now so we have something to eat Questioningly OK decisively And if he wakes up you have to pick him up The young man nods and while the young woman stands and looks at him, he takes the book up from the table and searches for his place, finds it and begins to read

Yah OK I'm going now He nods without looking at her. She goes out the door to the right, he puts the book down on his chest, continues to lie there, staring straight ahead. Lights out. Black


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