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The Nude In Magenta – A 10 minutes play

About Sudipta Bhawmik

Sudipta Bhawmik is an award winning playwright, actor and director and has written several plays in Bengali and English. Sudipta’s plays tell the stories of the struggles and contradictions of the first generation Bengali immigrants (and their children) with their divided loyalties. This unique contribution to Bengali Theater has inspired several theater scholars to cite Sudipta’s plays in their scholarly work about diasporic theater. His plays have been produced and staged in USA, UK, Bangladesh, India, and have been translated and produced in several Indian languages like Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, and English. His plays have won several awards at different festivals in India as well as in USA and Canada. Major theater journals in India publish his plays and he has three books to his credit. He is also the writer, director, and performer of the popular podcast “The Stories of Mahabharata.” Sudipta lives in New Jersey and is a member of the Dramatist Guild of America.

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CHARACTERS

RAJIV A young Indian American man in his thirties
JANE Rajiv’s wife, a white Caucasian woman in her thirties.
CURATOR
MAN Middle aged man.
A man in his forties.

**********************

SETTING

An art gallery.

TIME

Evening. Present.

************************

Lights up inside an art gallery. Rajiv and Jane are here to see the paintings of the famous contemporary artist Victor Velasco. They move from one piece to the other and talk.

RAJIV : Not bad.
JANE : Not bad? Rajiv, this is wonderful. Watch those tones. Notice how he balances the color temperatures across the canvas? Feel the heat slowly melt into the cool blue.
RAJIV : (Amused) Color temperature? Oh yes, I can feel it.
(Brings his palm close to the canvas)
Yes, I can feel the heat.
JANE : Don’t be silly. Velasco is a master of color and composition. Look how he divides up the canvas, balances the masses of colors in perfect harmony. You know, some say he is the modern Mondrian.
RAJIV : Mondrian?
JANE : Never mind Mondrian. (Rajiv looks at her quizzically) Uh well, Mondrian was a famous Dutch painter in the early 20th century.

(Rajiv pulls out his phone and googles for Mondrian, finds him and reads out loud.)

RAJIV : Here it is – “Piet Mondrian was a contributor to the De Stijl art movement and group, which was founded by Theo van Doesburg. He evolved a non-representational form, which he termed neoplasticism. This consisted of white ground, upon which he painted a grid of vertical…”
JANE : Will you please stop that?
RAJIV : I am only trying to learn.

(Jane has moved to another painting.)

JANE : Stunning! This piece is exceptional. You got to admit, Velasco is a genius.

(Notices Rajiv is not behind her. She looks around. Finds Rajiv standing stupefied in front of a painting.)

JANE : Rajiv, come here. Look at this painting. This is his best work, I’d say.

(Rajiv does not answer. The painting mesmerizes him.)

JANE : What are you looking at?

(Jane moves close to Rajiv. The moment she sees the painting her jaw drops.)

JANE : Oh my God!
RAJIV : Oh my God? Yes, of course!! Oh my God!
JANE : It is a wonderful piece of work – Nude in Magenta. Look at those flesh tones in magenta. She looks pretty though.
RAJIV : It’s you Jane. Don’t you see? It’s you!
JANE : Me? Well, there is some resemblance… Now that you mention, the resemblance is quite uncanny!
RAJIV : That’s the understatement of the year. It is a photocopy of you…
JANE : Don’t be silly. Yeah, she looks like me, but that’s not me. It’s just a coincidence.
RAJIV : What about this mark on your hip? That’s a coincidence too?
JANE : It must be.
RAJIV : You knew it, right?
JANE : Knew what?
RAJIV : Your nude painting will be on public display? You brought me to enjoy my wife’s “nude in magenta” hung in a warehouse wall?
JANE : Stop it Rajiv. For that last time, that isn’t me.
RAJIV : So, when did you pose for him? (Looks at the title below the painting) Says 2014. Pretty recent, huh! I thought this guy was dead.
JANE : Why should he be dead?
RAJIV : I don’t know. Most famous artistes are dead. So when did you pose for him? How many sessions?

(Jane does not answer. She is fuming.)

RAJIV : I know you are comfortable exposing yourself to strangers. You used to pose for artistes, didn’t you?
JANE : Yes I did, when I was a student. I had to pay bills.
RAJIV : But now you have a job. I have a job. You don’t need to take off your clothes to earn some cash. Do you?
JANE : I told you, I don’t pose for artistes any more.
RAJIV : Except for someone famous like Victor Velasco, right?
JANE : Let me tell you this, if Velasco wanted me to pose for him in the nude, I would have agreed to do so gladly – for free.
RAJIV : Aha! Now you admit. (Jane looks away) Come one Jane, its okay with me if you pose for a famous artist like – Velasco. As long as you didn’t – you know – sleep with him.

JANE : Rajiv, I want to leave – right now.
RAJIV : Darling, please don’t dodge my question. Just tell me, did you sleep with this artist or not?
JANE : NO I DID NOT!
RAJIV : Hey, you see – it wasn’t difficult. We are grown ups – we can deal with this.
JANE : Right! Now can we leave?
RAJIV : We sure can. But, before we go, I need to get rid of this painting.
JANE : What? Are you out of your mind?
RAJIV : You think I’d leave this nude painting of my wife for the world to ogle on?
JANE : Rajiv, trust me, nobody would recognize me in that painting.
RAJIV : I don’t want to take any chances. My friends and colleagues might come. I told them, we are coming to this exhibition of the great VICTOR VELASCO. I don’t want this painting to make me a laughing stock. My parents might come. You were blabbering about this artist to my parents.
JANE : Relax Rajiv. This show ends tonight.
RAJIV : Tonight is the last night? Oh my god! They’ll be here any minute now.

(Rajiv takes off his jacket and covers the painting with his jacket.)

JANE : What do you think you are doing? Remove that ugly jacket from the painting.
RAJIV : Oh no, I won’t! I don’t want my parents to see their daughter-in law lying nude on a canvas. They’d go into a catatonic shock!
JANE : You know what? I won’t argue with you anymore.

(The art gallery curator arrives)

CURATOR : Excuse me, what seems to be the problem? And why’s that jacket covering “the nude in magenta”?
RAJIV :Oh there has been a mistake. This painting shouldn’t have been here. Skip this one. There are plenty of others. Go ahead – enjoy them.
CURATOR : I have seen them all, my good sir. I am the curator of this gallery and there’s been no mistake. “The nude in magenta” is one of Velasco’s landmark paintings. People come here to see this only. Now if you please…
RAJIV :Fine. I want to buy this painting. Tell me your price.
CURATOR : I am sorry sir this painting is not for sale.
RAJIV : Everything is for sale, for the right price. Call the artist. Or give me his number. I will call him.

CURATOR (To Jane) : Is he serious? (Back to Rajiv) Well, right now Mr. Velasco is in Spain, and I don’t have his number there. Maybe you can comeback in a month or so, and I can try to get in touch with him. If I may ask, why do you want this painting so badly?
JANE : He thinks –
RAJIV (Cuts her off) : Many things attract me – color temperature, composition, balance – the Mondrianistic approach. You are the Curator, right? What do you know about this painting?
CURATOR : What do you want to know?
RAJIV : Do you know, who’s the model in this painting?
CURATOR : The model? I think I read about her somewhere. Give me a minute.

(Curator pulls out his iPad and searches for the information.)

Here you go – “The Nude in Magenta” by Victor Velasco… blah blah blah – here it is – Velasco’s long time girlfriend Jane posed for this painting. Velasco and Jane spent long summer afternoons in his New York loft painting this masterpiece.

RAJIV : AHA! Jane, her name was Jane! Now darling what do you have to say about that? Long summer afternoons, right? Steamy afternoons!
JANE : Shut up Rajiv.
RAJIV : Shut up? You ask me to shut up? You have been cheating on me all these days and you ask me to shut up?
JANE : I did not cheat on you.
RAJIV : Don’t lie! This painting is a living proof! Oh my god, I can’t even imagine – you lying there – naked – in front of that debauch artist – and he paints you, touches you!
JANE : Rajiv, there are thousands of Janes in this city. It could’ve been anybody.
RAJIV : Yeah right! A Jane who looks like you and has the same mark on her hip, just like you.

CURATOR : Excuse me sir. You think the woman in this painting is your wife?
RAJIV : Yes of course! (Removes the jacket from the painting) Here take a look. Do you have any doubts? Isn’t the resemblance too good to be a coincidence?
CURATOR : Hmm… let me see. I don’t see your wife’s eyes at different levels around her nose. I don’t see her left arm emerging from her back, and her right arm from her head. I don’t see her lips enlarged and twisted like a pretzel. This is a cubist interpretation of a nude, and I am surprised you still see her likeness in this painting.

(Rajiv is confused. He looks at the painting and at Jane.)

RAJIV : But… but… don’t you see it? It’s her! It’s Jane. Jane, you saw it too. Didn’t you? Tell him, you saw the likeness too.
JANE : I told you it wasn’t me!

(Jane walks out)

RAJIV : Jane wait!
CURATOR : Sir, the museum closes in ten minutes, in case you are still interested in viewing the rest.

(The Curator leaves. Rajiv keeps staring at the painting. A man enters the gallery and stops in front of the painting.)
MAN : I’d be darned! This woman looks exactly like my ex-wife Jane!
(Rajiv looks at the man for a moment and then runs out of the gallery. Lights fade out.)

 

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