notes for a short play about frank wisner
first act: 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. throughout the first act, he debates whether to take the drug. 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 german prisoners of war shipped off to death camps after the soviets conquered hungary. 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 hungarian 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.
he had started listening to a lot of afrocentric jazz. archie shepp. a few others. he hardly knew the names. he would cruise itunes late at night, looking for trouble. just about anything he could wrap his wallet around that had long black legs and the smell of deep dark whiskey blind falling down in the alley heart to it. he must have spent a few thousand dollars. he would listen to the albums one at a time, but only one time. somewhere he had seen a documentary about attica and it stuck to his soul like butter on the knife. he had this feeling that he could reach out and touch the sixties like a pair of tits in the night. but it was all before his time, out of reach. and he had a day job.
he'd wind up sitting in his cubicle early in the morning, eyes like bowls of red cherry juice dripping over the sides, thinking about human sacrifice. sometimes matisse would creep in there and leave something on the doorstep of his mind. then he'd run the numbers through the database and hope that nobody would throw any fire drills at him that day.
sometimes they'd have a meeting in the afternoon and he'd sit listening to the speaker phone with his eyes half open, praying that no one in the room noticed. then he'd go home and do it all over again, dreaming of travis bickle, pretending to shoot his imaginary .45 deep into the pockets of all the fat cats everywhere in the world. he tried to imagine what it would be like to live in a tent city in haiti. those luxury hotels like monopoly plastic all over the board.
the state department foots the bill.