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"The Last Utopian (A Fourier Fantasy)" Part 7

"The Last Utopian (A Fourier Fantasy)," by local playwright Sue Reynoldson, is being published in serial weekly. Reproduction or production are encouraged with permission from the author. PDF upon request. Site search for "Fourier" shows previous installments
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PLOT SYNOPSIS: The famous French Utopian is living with his three orphaned nieces at the family homestead in the countryside. He is in love with his youngest niece, but is beginning to realize she is not the paragon of virtue he had once supposed.
Scene 1: Flashforward
Scene 2: Charles' nieces engaged in the oldest profession
Scene 3: Simultaneously, Charles travels toward his nieces
Scene 4: Charles arrives at the family's country homestead
Scene 5: Charles tries to corner Hortense
Scene 6: Charles is caught eavesdropping
Scene 7: Incest exposed

SCENE 7
At the kitchen table, FRANCISCO is describing a newspaper article to CHARLES, HORTENSE, and FANNY.

FRANCISCO
George Sand says Charles fits neatly between Robert Owen and Saint-Simon.

HORTENSE
Like Jesus between two thieves.

FRANCISCO
And look here! Robert Owen says ‘Charles Fourier’s vision will change the world!’

CHARLES
Robert Owen’s community is a nightmare. There is no agriculture and everyone is expected to behave like a monk. I wish that bloated moralist would leave me alone!

FRANCISCO
I have written a poem about your days in seminary school. Would you like to hear it?

CHARLES
Must everyone jump into the fray?

FRANCISCO
[Reading from a small book, he emphasizes the last syllable of every line]

There was a young man from Dijón
Who didn't have time for religión.
He said, ‘As for me,
They bore me, all three,
The father, the son, and the pigeón.’

[FANNY and HORTENSE laugh]

CHARLES
Francisco, has it ever occurred to you that some things in life are not a joke?

FRANCISCO
No, but that’s certainly a thought, Charles.
[Rising]
I have to catch the afternoon coach to Paris to sign the papers for a millinery.
[He walks toward the door, tapping his cane across the floor]

FANNY
You got the millenary? Francisco! That’s wonderful!

CHARLES
Wait! That tapping noise is just like the tapping I heard on the stairs last night.

FANNY
Uncle Charles! Are you accusing the saintly Francisco?

FRANCISCO
Hasta luego!

[FRANCISCO exits followed by FANNY]

CHARLES
Then what do you suppose that tapping noise was?

HORTENSE
I didn’t hear any tapping noise. Perhaps you were hallucinating.

CHARLES
I don’t hallucinate.

HORTENSE
What about your prediction that the sea will change into lemonad, and all fierce and noxious animals and insects will be transformed into sweet and gentle anti-lions, anti-rats, and anti-bugs?

CHARLES
[He pours himself a glass of red wine]
Those are scientific predictions based on fact.

HORTENSE
How would you explain those ‘facts’ to Isaac Newton?

CHARLES
I won't have to. Newton's dead.

[CHARLES takes the bottle of wine into the parlor. HORTENSE follows]

CHARLES, Continued
My predications will deter the plagiarists. They won’t read it

HORTENSE
No one will.

CHARLES
[He sighs]
You’re probably right. I’m doomed to spend my life the jailhouse of commerce.

HORTENSE
Oh, people will read it. It’s just that you have a knack for taking something you really believe in and making it a laughing stock.

CHARLES
I have to camouflage my plan. It’s a threat to the very fabric of society. People don’t want to know their belief that they can consciously control their behavior is an illusion.

HORTENSE
It is?

CHARLES
Oh, we can will ourselves to be free, and of course we must believe we are, but nature and nurture is all there is. In that simple fact lies the case against the guillotine, the debtor’s prison, all forms of punishment.

HORTENSE
There will be no punishments at Harmony?

CHARLES
Only humane restraint. Loss of freedom is punishment enough. Anything more has the opposite of the intended effect... if the intended effect is quiet in the land.

HORTENSE
But if there is no free will, how will we ever break the dictates of nature and nurture to build universal harmony on the ruins of civilization?

CHARLES
Soon I will tell you the essential part.

HORTENSE
I hope so.

[CHARLES pours himself another glass of wine. GERARD slips silently into the kitchen and eavesdrops on the parlor]

HORTENSE
Your fifth glass this afternoon?
[Sitting on Charles’ lap, she wipes a red stain from his upper lip]
Why do you do this to yourself?

CHARLES
Who else could I do it to? Who would let me?
[He bounces her on his knee]
You’re too thin, Hortense. Have a truffle.

[HORTENSE relaxes back against him savoring a truffle]

CHARLES, Continued
Remember when all the shopkeepers would come out of their shops to see you ride down the street on Newton?

HORTENSE
[She turns to face Charles, straddling his legs]
Giddiup, Newton!

CHARLES
Newton is dead.

HORTENSE
Newton lives! Giddiup, Newton!

[She whips his knees like a horse's behind]

CHARLES
[Sliding her gently off of his lap]
You’ve had too much chocolate, Hortense. And I’ve had too much wine... for such a warm day, that is. I’ll just take a little nap and then we can get to work.

[HORTENSE sits at the desk and takes up her pen. CHARLES reclines on a the chaise as if asleep, yet he trembles. Presently, HORTENSE rises from the desk and sits on the edge of the chaise. She gives Charles a lingering kiss on the lips. Presently, a large form casts a shadow across the parlor floor from the kitchen door]

GERARD
[Standing at the kitchen door]
How cozy.

HORTENSE
[She jumps up]
Gerard! Thank God you’re here! Uncle Charles is having a heart attack! I was just giving him the breath of life! Please fetch the doctor!

GERARD
Buzzards should eat his heart out, the old pervert! His infamy is the stock and trade of every balladeer in France!

HORTENSE
Please, Gerard! Fetch the doctor!

GERARD
Wait until they hear about this at the Pig ‘n Truffle!
[He exits]

CHARLES
Who does he think he is barging in here like that? Was he born in a barn?

HORTENSE
Some say an orphanage. Some say Chaillot.

CHARLES
Wherever it was, I'm sure the ground is black and nothing stands. Back in the deep, dark recesses of his head is only that little reptilian pea brain we all start with. All the forces of nature are in it... smell, taste, touch… but it’s failed to develop from lack of love.

HORTENSE
Could Gerard get into Harmony?

CHARLES
If The Court of Love agreed.

HORTENSE
The older women?

CHARLES
And a few men perhaps. No scar is too deep to heal. At Harmony everyone will be filled with everything he missed in childhood. All we need is one wealthy benefactor. Just one enlightened soul to fund my plan.

HORTENSE
We’d better get your plan written down then.
[She opens her notebook]

END OF SCENE 7
 
 


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