Blending in

Blending in

A short play by Geetha Balvannanathan ( 

September 2016



MARIA: A very stout frightful nun who has seen the world and will take no nonsense. See detailed character description at end of play for more information

MAURIZIO: A small man of Italian descent; was once handsome, now slightly balding. See detailed character description at end of play for more information

ARSENE: A professional thief of French origin. Kept a very strong French accent. Stealing amounts to an art for him. See detailed character description at end of play for more information

MAHA: Subdued Indian woman. Obsessed with cooking. See detailed character description at end of play for more information

GERTRUD: A tall thin spinster who is of English and German descent. Likes to think of herself as mainly German. See detailed character description at end of play for more information

VOICE OFF: Person who has put the cast together. Female. Sister Maria was a teacher at her school.

CHILD: Quiet child with strange behaviour. Not clear whose child it is.


Setting: A closed room with walls that keep closing in on the actors.

Time: Beginning of evening


Bright-lit stage opens on Maria, MAURIZIO, ARSENE, MAHA and Gertrud looking bewildered at each other. The child is playing in a corner of the stage by himself.


Voice off: Now you’re wondering why I brought you here. Well I had to write a play in 10 minutes and all I could think of was you from my childhood so I brought you here and you’ll have to come up with a play in 10 minutes that has a bit of each of you. That’s the only way I can get you all out of my head.


MARIA (in a thick Hispanic/Italian accent) : What do you meeeaan each of ussse. You meanne  ah me and that good for nothing Maurizio in the same play. My Lord does not go with the things he likes. The big boobies, the thin very thin panties, the skirts (gestures at each point mimicking the word she pronounces for boobies, panties, skirts). No no no no no. I don’t know you child but this cannot happen. This make no sense.


Voice off: Remember what you said sister Maria when I came crying to you and complained that the girls were teasing me because of my accent. You said, we always need to blend in one way or another well now YOU blend in. You’ve got 9 minutes left to sort that out.


MARIA (crossing herself) : Ay Santa Maria Virgen madre de todo, bendita y pura, protect us Mother Mary. Stuck here and with that good for nothing lady’s man, always running around skirts all the time. I see you Mister Maurizio (points towards her eyes and then towards him to show that she is watching him closely). I see you all the time with your gomina hair and smooth moves a drooling. Your wifea, she has the stomuck, another baby. You’re rabbits or? Or mice maybe? Think once. Think twice. So many babies, not very nice. You have nothing else to do Maurizio? Every time? Every time? How many babies you have? I can’t count them on two hands (beats one hand’s knuckles on the other hand’s palm). And the other ones, not from your wife…I don’t know…


MAURIZIO: Ma che sister Maria.. You don’t understand. This is the way of the world. Good wine. Good women –


GERTRUD: Oh Mister Morris one could hardly call a woman good if she is willing to bear the ill gotten fruit of the loins of a man who is not her lawfully wedded husband. I prese..eerved myself for that beautiful day


MARIA (in aparté): You preserved too much my girl. Maybe you had to take out the naphataline before. Some years back. (addresses the audience) When I see her grey hair I think many years back.


MAURIZIO (closing in on GERTRUD): Oh, I’ve missed out one beautiful flower out of this sunny basket in Sanremo. How could I have ever missed you my little English rose –


GERTRUD (laughing nervously and flattered): German actually. Funny, my mother almost called me Rose. She said I was so fresh / and pink I made her think of one.

MARIA: (in aparté addressing the audience) The fresha. I think not a rosa but a dandelion now. (to GERTRUD) Whata Rose? He will pluck all the petalsa off you and then bye bye Rosa Adios. Ay Madre. Ay senora protect us.


Voice OFF (with the walls closing in): You have 7 minutes left.


Meanwhile ARSENE, the thief has been going about stealthily stealing items from everyone on stage and he is trying to take off the rosary around Maria’s neck and she stops him.


MARIA: Aoo (turning towards ARSENE, then turning back to the audience) Ay a maniac, a half wit and a thief. How I can blend with any of you. Then with all of you I have to blend? You’re too far, too far from me but these walls… you see these walls? They are coming too close (turning towards ARSENE) What will you bring to the play? Only stealing every thing? You’re good for nothing like this one (points towards MAURIZIO)


ARSENE (Still trying to deftly remove the rosary from Maria’s neck): Ohhhhh… au contraire mon amie. I will bring many things, anything as long as it is shiny and bright and catches the light. I’ll have a go at it. It is all in ze fingers. The play has to be very tactile, very subtle. You must approach it with – (pauseS and gasps) doigté! The touch (dramatic pause) Very important! My skill will contribute everything smooth and sensually slick / you barely feel it, like the wind, floating through the corridors, removing prized Toulouse Lautrec’s off their frames without even sounding the alarms.


MAURIZIO: Arsène, please, sensual, that is me by definition. It is all about grabbing the heart (shows the sign of boobs) of the audience, grasping it with power and lust, squeezing it, feeling something grow, grow inside you (starts looking lecherous and starts making a larger swaying motion) …


The child is very interested at this point and comes towards MAURIZIO to listen more intently but Maria and GERTRUD rush towards him and stop him, covering his ears while MAHA and ARSENE try to calm MAURIZIO down. MAURIZIO is now raving about female breasts and keeps doing the gesture of him squeezing big boobs while he adlibs a psalmodic “grow, grow” before he calms down.


Child: What grows? What grows?


MAHA: I don’t know about all your nonsense na (shaking her head the indian way). We need to get out of here. If we have to blend in, we have to think of ourselves as spices. After all taste is in everything init? This play got to taste something good. I mean it’s ok if Gertrud is only parsley and she’s not coriander. We can add some chilly with Maurizio here. Some paprika with Maria here, some Rosemary with Arsine here I’ll be the brinjal na and this fella here he will be the garlic. We just mix (emphasis on mix) that together and you have a good dish. The play is the same thing. And these walls, forget them. Or think of them as the pressure cooker only. It’s all in the minutes.


VOICE OFF : You have 5 minutes left.


MARIA (shrieking and looking out for her rosary to pray but ARSENE has stolen it so she snatches it back from him as he hands it back apologetically): The walls, the walls Ay Maria!


ARSENE (with a sheepish look): Mes excuses ma soeur. Very sorry, it slipped into my pocket, it must have fallen from your neck direct into my pocket. I barely felt it before or would have given it back to you. (He is drawn to the shiny end of the rosary which he caresses lovingly) Did you say this was a diamond?


MARIA (glaring at him as she starts using the rosary): Santa Maria, santa Maria, the walls are closing in and we have no blended yet. Ay Madre. Ay Madre che pena! How to blend in with all of you. (Turns towards MAURIZIO who has been chatting up GERTRUD in aparté) MAURIZIO! Think of your 12 children and I don’t know how many more you have all around the country. What are you thinking? Look at her! She is (waves her hand up and down) Asparagus (turns towards MAHA) Maha, what a parsley? (turning back to MAURIZIO) and look at you (turning towards MAHA) Chilly? (turning back towards MAURIZIO) OK but the small piri piri chilly eh! (wagging her pinkie on piri piri and then doing the hand gesture of the Italians to say what on Earth)


GERTRUD: Oh please sister Maria. You must not say that. That is not very Christian of you! Oh please Mister Morris. I know you’re only being kind. I was once pretty –


MARIA: Once, yes. Once upon a time (waves her hand to make the audience understand that it must have been very long ago)


MAURIZIO: Don’t listen to her my little Germanic flower. She knows nothing about beauty. Look at her! (turns towards MAHA) what paprika Maha? She is the pumpkin. Hallloween pumpkin and there is more left after the cooking…There is so much everywhere, you don’t even know where to go in from / no wonder she’s a nun because aaah (waves his hand and shakes his head knowingly)/


Child (very interested): / Go in where?


MAHA: Nowhere child. Don’t listen to them na`? I’ll tell you something. You want to know what goes in well with pumpkin. In the west they say cream. I say what are you talking about na what cream shreem kleem. Best thing with pumpkin is some dal makni, some roasted cashew nuts on the side.


VOICE OFF: You have short of three minutes left


GERTRUD: Oh Mister Morris. Don’t say that about sister Maria. I’m sure she did not mean to be nasty.


MARIA (threateningly advancing on MAURIZIO who runs and hides behind GERTRUD): What pumpkin? Come say that in my face. I’ll show you pumpkin, you piri piri.


GERTRUD: Sister Maria I’m sure Mister Morris did not mean what he said. Sister Maria (MAURIZIO is hiding behind GERTRUD as Maria tries to scuff him on the ear and he keeps ducking behind). Sister Maria please…The lord says love one another


MARIA: I’ll show you love Gomina piri piri. I will put your gomina hair the right way round


GERTRUD: Sister Maria, the Lord asks to present the other cheek


ARSENE (trying to get the rosary off): Ma soeur. I think you are better off with this weight off you. I will keep it very safely for you ma soeur. I will forget even where it is (MARIA glares back at him while he is removing the rosary so he quickly and smoothly adds) until you need it again of course ma soeur. I’m a big défenseur of the church and its many accumulated treasures from foreign countries of course. I will steal them as they stole them. I mean eh… I will treasure them and preserve them as they have. I will give them in time to their rightful owner always! In time…


MAURIZIO: Take it! What does she need diamonds for in front of that thing. There is nothing to decorate. There is so much you don’t know what it is for anymore. And down there I don’t even want to imagine and this is me MAURIZIO I have tried everything in a dress.


CHILD (comes forward and looks like he wants to poke sister MARIA’s breasts when MAURIZIO says anymore): What’s that thing?


MAHA intervenes and pulls him away and closes his ears when MAURIZIO starts saying and down there.


GERTRUD: Oh please Mister Morris. Don’t be rude to sister Maria. She’s devoted her life to our Lord and savior. Oh please sister Maria. I beg you! Remember, only the strong forgive.


MARIA: You don’t worry! I will forgive him after I’ve knocked a tooth or two so he can learn how to speak to sister Maria (she is getting closer to MAURIZIO and GERTRUD while ARSENE is getting closer trying to empty all their pockets while they are busy fighting)


ARSENE: I don’t think you will be needing that and you will not be needing that and you my darling will not be needing that and that (to himself) ooooh la laaaaa… quelle splendeur! Un lalique


MAHA (running around them yelling): Not all together, not all together! That spoils the flavours. Each item has to exhale its own flavour. The taste of each item has to come out na? You must blend in but… not blend in na?


MAURIZIO (running around GERTRUD – who keeps shrieking from time to time as sister Maria’s hand falls here and there near her – and hiding from Maria who is trying to whack him turns towards MAHA as she ends and shaking his hand): Ma vaaaaa….


They come closer and closer and fall in a pile on the floor.


Voice OFF: You have 10 seconds left but what are you doing?


Child: /They’re Blending in…







16 September 2016


Sister Maria :

A large and rather tall red-faced matron with a huge chest that looks more like the dome of a cathedral than a woman’s breasts. She talks with a very strong Hispanic/Italian accent as she is of both Hispanic and Italian descent. She has grown up in the streets of Rome and takes no nonsense from anyone. She has strong views on most things and does not keep her views to herself. She does not believe in discretion or tact but thinks that one should always say what one thinks as only the Truth can be good.

She was not always a nun but decided to become one after her husband was one of the lawyers killed in the 1977 Massacre of Atocha. She was in her late twenties and he was barely older and they had hardly lived a married life together before he was killed. She spends her time in prayers and trying to save souls and although she has a good heart, she is very quarrelsome and has kept some of her street ways.

She keeps from the time of her marriage a diamond pendant offered to her by her husband and it is now attached to a rosary that hangs from her neck. She never removes it as it is the most precious thing to her after her Lord. Other than that, her demeanour is marked with austerity. She wears long black gowns and only the small bit of white in her headscarf brings any colour to her outfit. The only other colour in her apart from her accent is her language which is not quite commensurate with her vocational choice.



A smooth talker who thinks of himself as a great latin lover, Maurizio is a rather small man who does not look very meaningful but he has very powerful eyes and a charming voice and ways that mesmerise the ladies. He has a very strong Italian accent and speaks a lot with his hands . He loves the ladies of course and prides himself to have conquered all of the town where he lives (San Remo) together with his wife who is yet again pregnant and his 12 official children and his numerous other children of whom he barely knows anything most of the time.

Maurizio cannot stop himself from getting carried away when triggered by anything that has a potential sexual innuendo and most people think of him as a sex maniac. He is not actually a sex offender as all his women are consenting and he never goes out with too young girls. He sees it beneath him to seduce girls who have no clue on how to defend themselves, his targets are the women who seem tough but whom he senses could have something very sensual to them and he is interested in exploring that latent sensuality in every woman he meets. Like sister Maria, he sees himself on a mission which is to convert others but only women to the art of loving. Loving him of course, not anyone else. Maurizio is known for his hair which is always sleek and shining with the gomina that he lays on thick all over it as he is convinced it is a must for getting the look of the latin lover. He dresses up in a suit a tad old-fashioned and a bit ridiculously assorted to his surroundings and he has a big gold chain that you can see dangling on his bare chest as he always keeps the five first buttons of his shirt unbuttoned.



She is a very tall and thin spinster. Though she has an English grandmother who was the main person who brought her up when she was a young girl and taught her perfect English, Gertrud sees herself as German because of her citizenship and the name her parents chose. She is younger than Maria but looks almost older because she is extremely thin and wrinkled and all her hair is grey. Her physical appearance is marked by her sickness, anorexia, as she does not eat enough for her traits to be normal. Despite that, she has some sort of faded beauty as she has very large liquid blue eyes, like those of a child, a thin nose and lips which could have been plump if she did not keep them pressed together so hard all the time.

She speaks with a very shrill voice, is very nervous, apologetic and is very much of a goodie two shoes. She is a devout woman who likes to quote ideas from the bible and always tries to be a pacifier so she appears to change her mind very often. She is timid and wears mainly vintage clothes as that is the only romantic thing she has left now that her fiancé is no more and she had chosen to preserve herself for the D-day but realised it would actually never materialize. She spends her time daydreaming and trying to make opposite viewpoints match or at least stop trouble from brewing.



He is a French middle-aged thief who does not steal for selling to others but mainly for himself. Occasionally he might steal something to sell off but he mainly steals prized art for his own private enjoyment. He grew up in the suburbs of Paris and learnt to steal from a very young age as that was the only way he could make ends meet as his father had left his mother and him and run away with a younger woman.

Arsène has a very pronounced French accent and although he moved to Sanremo quite a while ago, he never gave up his very particular French accent and is quite proud of it. He thinks of himself as the last gentleman cambrioleur and compares his knack of stealing surreptitiously to the eighth art in the world and thinks of it as a very sacred practice. He sees himself as a man on a mission which is being the preserver of human treasures and beauty, a sort of mega curator of all things beautiful, pricy and as shiny as possible most of the time. This obsession comes to him from his childhood when he had to steal bright coins off the less able to defend themselves (other children or young teenagers) when he had to fend for himself and his mother. He is very sleek, smooth and always dresses very smartly. He has no interest in women (or men for that matter) but is only interested in art for which he has a very keen eye and hand…



She is a subdued indian woman who only gets animated once she starts talking about cooking. Her hair is very dark and profuse and she often sports the sari. She is married but does not like to think of her husband as he is shameful to her because he loves cooking and won’t let her cook at home. She feels the whole neighbourhood ridicules her because she does not get to cook at home although she is a recognized chef everywhere else. Her specialty is in finding the right time for each time to be cooked without losing its flavor and she has written a cookbook called “Cooking to the clock” of which she is very proud.

She punctuates almost all her sentences with na and thinks that all of life is one big cooking event where everything can be interpreted according to the code of cooking. Like Maria, Arsène and Maurizio, she too feels she has a mission in life and that is to make the art of cooking accessible to everyone. Not just accessible, she actually wants to communicate her passion of cooking to others as she thinks of it as a noble art, especially her recipes, that must be perpetuated beyond her life.



Nobody knows where he came from or whose child he is. Nobody even knows what his name is and it is hard to give him a definite age although he cannot be more than 9 years old. He is quite passive although he might all of a sudden become animated to the point of agitation. Most of the time, though, he just sits there sometimes playing and sometimes listening keenly to the others. It looks like he could be autistic because of some of his behaviours. He does not seem to know some of the most basic things in life yet has a strange fascination for Maurizio’s maniac phases which he follows closely.

He stays most of the time in the background and speaks rather slowly in a very inquisitive voice.

Chaplin Modern Times-Factory Scene (late afternoon)

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