WHOSE LION IS IT ANYWAY?

CHARACTERS, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:

BELLE: A scientist and time traveler from the future.

LAETA: A flirtatious Roman woman, and worshipper of Bacchus (the god of wine and parties). Her name is pronounced "Lie-ta," and translates to "happy."

MAXIMUS: A timid Roman citizen arrested for a small crime.

OCCULTA: A Roman guard and spy for a movement resisting the Empire. Her name translates to "secretive;" let this be her character note.

SETTING: A Roman jail cell during the outset of the Empire (circa 1 AD). There are three benches or crates upon which the characters may sit. These are arranged to delineate the walls of the cell.

SUGGESTED PROPS AND COSTUMES: Belle wears modern clothing, carries a cell phone. Laeta, Maximus, and Occulta wear togas, or Roman-looking apparel. Occulta carries a sword, and a rope is required to bind Maximus' hands at the play's start.


BELLE: So I hear there's a new prisoner coming into our cell today.

LAETA: Oh yes. It'll be so nice to have a man around.

BELLE: Not this man. I heard he massacred an entire market, no, an entire temple. He's dangerous, a menace to all of Rome.

LAETA: What's his name?

Dramatic pause

BELLE: Maximus Gloriosus.

Pause

MAXIMUS get shoved on stage, followed closely by OCCULTA. His hands are bound behind him and he looks terrified.

MAXIMUS (shouting): I… I… I'm sorry about your chicken!

LAETA and BELLE look at each other, raise eyebrows.

MAXIMUS gets shoved into cell by OCCULTA, falls to ground. After a moment he stands up, hands still bound, and looks at LAETA and BELLE.

MAXIMUS: How are you? My name is Gaius Maximus Gloriosus Glaeria Antonius Felix domo-

LAETA (interrupting): We know who you are.

MAXIMUS: You do?

BELLE: Of course. We've talked of nothing else for days. How you brutally massacred that village, all of those innocent mothers and children. And you stole their chicken too! It's a great story, really.

MAXIMUS: Um… well, I don't know what you heard exactly, but I guarantee that it's all false. Except the chicken part.

LAETA: Oh whatever, we don't care what you did. We're just happy to have a man around.

Awkward pause

LAETA: I forgot to introduce myself! I'm Laeta.

BELLE: And I'm Belle.

MAXIMUS: How did you both get arrested?

BELLE: Witchcraft.

MAXIMUS: What?

BELLE: Long story, never mind.

LAETA: All I did was party! I was engaged to this horrible man, who just happened to be the son of the emperor, and he didn't like that I just happened to get a little tipsy at this party, you know, and I kinda maybe made out with this kitchen slave, but not really you know, it wasn't that bad, but my fiancée found out and totally overreacted.

MAXIMUS gasps

MAXIMUS: Oh wow, was it terrible?

LAETA: No, the kitchen slave was a pretty good kisser.

BELLE rolls eyes

MAXIMUS (patiently): No, I meant your fiancée's reaction.

LAETA: Oh, that. Well, he called me some very rude names and had me arrested, but did you see that cute guard? And the other one? And the other other one? I tried to make them play Spin the Bottle in my Bacchus-worshipping ceremony, but, you know, some people just don't understand the finer points of religion.

BELLE sighs

BELLE: And there she goes with her wine god obsession again. I swear, if I hear one more story about being drunk I might go get drunk myself.

MAXIMUS: Don't do that! We should just follow the rules. They told me that, if I don't cause any trouble, I might be able to get out alive, so don't ruin that for me.

LAETA (batting eyelashes): Don't worry sweetheart, I'll be on my best behavior.

OCCULTA enters, carrying a sword.

OCCULTA: Maximus is right, you'd better stay in line or you'll regret it.

BELLE (sarcastically): And how are you today, Occulta?

OCCULTA: I'm actually having a splendid day, given that unlike you, I'm not stuck in a filthy prison cell with a man-hunting drunk whose idea of religion involves extended games of Spin the Bottle.

LAETA (defensively): That's religious discrimination!

BELLE (to herself): Why don't you call in the ACLU…

OCCULTA, LAETA, MAXIMUS: What?!

BELLE (sheepishly): Well, I wasn't going to tell you guys, but…

LAETA: Spill!

BELLE: Promise not to tell?

LAETA: As long as I'm sober.

BELLE: Whatever. So the story. You may not believe this, but I'm actually from the future.

Silence.

I come from the 21st century, about two thousand years from next Tuesday. My flux capacitor malfunctioned on my way to France and I'm all out of uranium.

Stunned silence.

MAXIMUS: What's uranium?

BELLE: A radioactive substance discovered by German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth in 1789. It has 92 protons, 92 electrons, and 146 neutrons. Its half life is 2.47 billion years, and its isotopes include uranium 235 and---(realizes no one understands her) it goes boom.

LAETA: Is it magic?

OCCULTA (contemptuously): It's witchcraft.

BELLE: It's science!

MAXIMUS: Isn't that a type of witchcraft?

BELLE: So anyway…promise you won't tell anyone? I'd rather not be stoned to death.

OCCULTA: We don't stone people; that's barbaric! We feed them to the lions.

MAXIMUS (gulps): So…so that's what's going to happen to us?

OCCULTA: Not necessarily. An offense like yours, you could probably get off with a nice clean beheading.

MAXIMUS cowers in fear.

BELLE: Leave the kid alone, Occulta. He doesn't need you to terrify him.

OCCULTA: You're right; you and Laeta seem to be doing a pretty good job of it yourselves.

LAETA: Not my fault I'm not allowed to bathe!

MAXIMUS inches away, then runs to the other side of the cell.

LAETA: Got a problem with that, sweetheart?

MAXIMUS shakes his head "no."

OCCULTA: As much as I enjoy spending time with you lovely people, duty calls. I've got lions to feed! Exits.

BELLE: We need to form an escape plan. Like, now.

LAETA: Why? The cute guards are nice here.
BELLE rolls eyes.

BELLE: So we don't get eaten by lions, sweetheart.

LAETA: Well, are the cute guards feeding us to the lions?

Silence.

Are they cute lions?

MAXIMUS: First, can somebody unbind me?

LAETA grins creepily, and unties him.

MAXIMUS (rubs wrists): Thanks.

BELLE: Focus, people!

LAETA: Alright.

BELLE: They plan to feed us to lions tomorrow, and I left my oven on back home, so we really need to get out of here. Since my cell phone's not working, we need to do this the old-fashioned way. (to herself) Dang, I should have upgraded to 4G.

MAXIMUS: What's the old-fashioned way?

BELLE: Steal some spoons and tunnel under the walls.

LAETA: Whoa, whoa, whoa. That's gonna break some serious nails.

MAXIMUS: And we can't do that in one night.

BELLE: Well, if we had turbo-spoons… Never mind. I guess we need a new plan, then.

LAETA: Yeah, we do. If you want, I'll distract the guards.

BELLE: No!

MAXIMUS: Guys, we need to cooperate. We're all in this together!

BELLE starts to sing the High School Musical song "We're All in this Together." MAXIMUS and LAETA stare.

BELLE: It's a… religious hymn from the future. Never mind. Focus.

Short silence as they think.

MAXIMUS: You see that window at the top of our cell? I bet we can break that open and climb through it.

BELLE: That could work.

LAETA: And I'll distract the guards!

BELLE and MAXIMUS: NO!

Pause.

BELLE: On second thought, do that. Stay here.

MAXIMUS: No, we can't just leave her here!

BELLE: Yes, we can.

LAETA: Thank you, Maximus.

MAXIMUS: Let's get started.

OCCULTA enters, standing apart from the group, pacing and thinking. {Spotlight should be on BELLE, LAETA and MAXIMUS}

MAXIMUS: Why don't you hoist me up to the window and I'll see if I can squeeze through the bars?

BELLE: I don't think we can get you high enough. How about…?

They trail off, but continue to gesture, and OCCULTA begins to speak to herself. {Spotlight on OCCULTA}

OCCULTA: How about…no…..no, that won't work…. This is hard…..wait…I've got it-eureka!

Pause.

No, that won't work either. Hmph.

She begins to pace again, more agitated.

It's really hard to break three ungrateful prisoners out of jail. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with this rebellion. I only joined because I don't like the emperor's hairstyle. Not to mention his toga. Or his ruling style. This entire empire needs a new groove.

Sighs

I tried civil disobedience, but, in the end, this rebellion is the only even semi-successful way I've found of fighting the empire. But is that really a reason to be 100 miles from home working in a jail? It's not always worth it, even if those guards sure are cute. Pauses.

I better keep working. I need to save these people from the lions, even though the girls are obnoxious.

She continues pantomiming planning {Spotlight back to BELLE, MAXIMUS, LAETA}

MAXIMUS: We better keep working. The window is the only way out of here. I need you guys to get me up there.

LAETA (whines): I'm not strong enough to lift you!

BELLE: Well start doing push-ups, sweetheart. You need to get strong fast if you want to live to see another bottle of wine.

LAETA: I guess.

BELLE: Come on, let's try again.

MAXIMUS stands on back bench, LAETA and BELLE kneel down, each pretending to struggle to lift one of his feet. After a moment, LAETA stops lifting and steps back.

LAETA (whines): I can't do it! I'm trying but I'm just not strong enough.

BELLE: In my time, that's what they have steroids for.

Pause.

Never mind. Maximus, I think we need a new plan. This isn't working.

MAXIMUS (sighs): Yeah, you're right. Let's keep thinking.

MAXIMUS, LAETA, and BELLE continue pantomiming planning. {Spotlight on OCCULTA}

OCCULTA: There's no other way. I've thought of every option, every possible escape route. I even considered letting Laeta distract the guards. (shudders) Poor guards. But there's no other way out, I know it. We have to go through the arena. I'll have to make sure the lions aren't out.

Exit. {Normal lighting resumes}

MAXIMUS: Nothing's working

BELLE: We'll come up with something. (Yawns) How long have we been at this?

MAXIMUS: I don't know, but it's been dark outside for a while.

Pauses.

We're going to have to go through the arena, you know. It's the only way out of this jail.

BELLE: I know. But we still need to find a way out of our cell.

LAETA: You guys probably want to get some sleep. I'll stay up and keep thinking.

BELLE: Don't strain yourself.

LAETA: Don't worry I'll come up with the perfect plan.

BELLE: Yeah, you do that. Rolls eyes.

MAXIMUS: Whatever.

MAXIMUS and BELLE lay down and go to sleep.

LAETA pauses to make sure that they are asleep, then walks to the edge of the cell and waves her arms for attention.

LAETA: Oh Guaa-ards. C'mere guards. I've got a secret.

LAETA pantomimes talking to someone, then lays down to go to sleep.

OCCULTA runs on, pantomimes unlocking the cell door.

OCCULTA (hushed): Wake up. We have to get going.

MAXIMUS, BELLE and LAETA wake up, stand, yawn, stretch, etc. All are groggy.

MAXIMUS: Wha? Wherrewe going?

BELLE: Where's the snooze button? Five more minutes.

OCCULTA: No, no, we have to go. C'mon. I'm here to get you out.

LAETA: Wait. What?
OCCULTA: There's no time to explain. I'm on your side.

BELLE: Why should we listen to you? You're about as trustworthy as FOX news.

MAXIMUS: Huh?

BELLE: Never mind. (to OCCULTA) Prove we can trust you.

OCCULTA: I don't have to. They're planning to feed you to the lions. Today. I'm your last hope.

LAETA: Well, getting eaten by lions doesn't really sound like fun…

OCCULTA: It's not. Now follow me.

All exit, following OCCULTA off the stage, up the aisle, and out of the theatre. They return through the other door, down the other aisle, up to the stage,

OCCULTA (a few steps from the stage): We're almost at the arena. Hurry

They reach the stage. LAETA stays at the edge, but OCCULTA leads MAXIMUS and BELLE into the middle.

OCCULTA: Oh no! The lions are out.

BELLE: Lions and lions and lions, oh my!

OCCULTA: They weren't supposed to be here! I swear!

BELLE: You lied!

MAXIMUS: You betrayed us!

OCCULTA: I didn't!

LAETA: I did.

BELLE, MAXIMUS, OCCULTA turn to face her; all are angry.

MAXIMUS: Why?

BELLE (sarcastically/disbelieving): How? "Backstabbing for Dummies"?

LAETA: Pretty simple. Why? I like living and, allied with you, I'm dead. How? While you were asleep, I had a lovely little chat with the guards. They are so nice, you know. Anyway, I may or may not have told them a little tiny bit of our secret escape plan, and they might have taken it seriously, and they just might have decided to set the lions on you. Better now than later, right?

OCCULTA: But won't the lions get you too, o sneaky one?

LAETA: Don't worry. The guards are just behind us. I can assure you that I'll be fine.

MAXIMUS (screaming): Oh my gosh! We're going to diiiiiiiiieeeeee!

Growls and roars like lions are heard from backstage.

OCCULTA: There's only one way out of this… we have to fight the lions.

OCCCULTA, BELLE, MAXIMUS charge, and run offstage. "O Fortuna" is suggested to play here. From backstage, we hear clanging, screaming, roaring, etc. The noise stops; they are dead.

Dramatic pause. LAETA smiles. {Lights black out}

END