The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The peculiar convolutions of a plot which transmutes mysteries into unanswerable riddles are set forth in the initial dialogue, in which a police detective, in questioning a household maid, is apprised of some unusual domestic concerns. A woman has disappeared while she was on a shopping trip, even though habitually she has gone on errands of that sort to buy yarn for the dress of her daughter, who, during a previous marriage, was aborted forty years ago. Her present husband, Bahadir Efendi, who retired from railway work five years before, spends much of his time in their garden with Lady Green (Shaykhah Khadra’), a lizard which he claims has maintained a sanctuary in an orange tree; however, the maid has never seen any indication that such an animal has ever existed. The elderly couple hardly have anything to do with each other, according to the maid; as if to demonstrate her point, even as she is talking to the detective, the wife appears suddenly at the window of the house and calls out to her husband; when he responds, they launch into a series of statements that virtually seem to be parallel monologues. Each one’s thoughts are turned around to suit the other’s preoccupations. What to the husband is the growth of the orange tree, to the wife is the growth of her unborn daughter; as Bahadir Efendi muses upon green foliage, his wife interjects her fond thoughts about the child’s green dress that she has constantly been knitting.

When the detective summons the husband, he is surprised to hear Bahadir Efendi announce that something completely out of the ordinary has taken place: The venerable lizard which has lived in the garden for nine years inexplicably has disappeared. As the questioning proceeds, matters take a new turn when Bahadir Efendi admits to contemplating the murder of his wife, and then, after a few bizarre and befuddling exchanges, he divulges that her body has been buried at the foot of the orange tree; however, when the detective proposes that they dig there, the husband protests that any injury to its roots would be tantamount to a blow against his person. Then he suggests that perhaps she has not been killed after all.

When the husband holds forth on his past work as a railway inspector, they are spirited away to a train coach. Bahadir Efendi, after upbraiding an assistant inspector who has been, he claims, lax in his duties, comes upon a mysterious dervish who proffers his birth certificate in place of a ticket and then points out that, since at present he does nothing, and he will do...

(The entire section is 1037 words.)