Caged

“Caged,” a one-act play, was produced by Sidewalks Theater, and published by several literary Magazines.

CAGED

A Play

 By Gary Beck

SCENE: An urban zoo, with an outdoor cage and a door leading to the indoor cage. 

 (Ambient zoo sounds throughout the play.  Zookeeper enters. Unlocks cage door and sweeps, whistles, does a short ‘broom dance’.  Visitor enters. Watches.)

 Visitor:                                    You look real happy in there.

Zookeeper:                             Well I’m used to it. This is my 3rd year in the big house. And
                                                I’ll be leaving soon.

Visitor:                                   That’s a funny thing to say.  The big house. It sounds like a 
                                               prison.

Zookeeper:                             It is for them.

Visitor:                                    Don’t give me that. They got a roof over their heads, good 
                                               food, medical benefits. So what if they can’t go for a bus ride.
                                               They don’t get mugged.

Zookeeper:                             How would you like to be on public display eight hours a
                                                day? Everyone gaping at you. Yelling, cursing, spitting,
                                                throwing things, treating you like an animal. . . .

Visitor:                                    They are animals. You’ve got a real identity problem for a
                                                guard.

Zookeeper:                              I’m not a guard! Except to protect them    from people just
                                                like you.

Visitor:                                    Me!

Zookeeper:                            Yeah. Don’t you talk to them? Give them  peanuts? Taunt
                                               them? Dare them to come out and go a few rounds with 
                                               you?

Visitor:                                    I don’t do anything like that!

Zookeeper:                             Well something else then…? Do you have fantasies about
                                               walking a wild beast on a leash and attracting beautiful
                                               women?

Visitor:                                    You’re a weirdo. I don’t think about things like that! Besides,
                                               what business is it of yours what I think?

Zookeeper:                              You started this conversation, not me.

Visitor:                                    That wasn’t an invitation to analyze me. And I’m not like that
                                               at all.

Zookeeper:                            Then why are you here?  It’s probably for something cruel or
                                               perverse. That’s why people come here. That’s why the
                                               animals are in cages.  So everyone can tease them and
                                               gloat how superior they are.

Visitor:                                    We are superior!  We’re people. That’s why we’re out here 
                                               and they’re in there.

Zookeeper:                             If we were superior, we wouldn’t torture these poor brutes
                                               with life imprisonment, just for our entertainment.  Especially
                                               when almost two million Americans are in prison for real
                                               crimes. We don’t make a sideshow out of them.

Visitor:                                    What are you talking about?  We’re not barbarians. That’s 
                                               why everyone’s against capital punishment. That proves 
                                               we’re more civilized then the animals.

Zookeeper:                             If we were civilized, we’d put these poor beasts out of their
                                               misery and show movies or television, instead of letting
                                               people gape through the bars. But no, people have to see
                                               what they really look like, live and miserable.

Visitor:                                    But zoos are building natural habitats, so the animals can
                                               live well. They’ll be happy and our children can learn about
                                               them.

Zookeeper:                             Why don’t you step into this habitat for a minute and see
                                                what it feels like.

Visitor:                                    No, thanks. I don’t want to get my clothes dirty, and I’ve got
                                               an appointment soon.

Zookeeper:                             Didn’t you ever wonder what it would be like, looking out at
                                               all those people? Hoping you could get your claws on
                                               them…. Losing hope as the years go by…. Fading away…. 
                                               Coughing…. Getting sick.

Visitor:                                    That wouldn’t happen to me!  I’d exercise regularly and eat
                                               the right way.

Zookeeper:                            It’s not like that for them.  They can’t ask to speak to the
                                              warden, or request library privileges.

Visitor:                                   You’re blowing it out of proportion. They’re protected at least.
                                              What do you think would happen to them in Africa or Asia?
                                              Someone would be making them into rugs or coats.

Zookeeper:                            It might be better then this. Try it. (He beckons to the visitor.)

Visitor:                                   What are you, nuts?  (encouraged by the zookeeper, he 
                                              hesitantly enters and starts inspection.)  It may not be the
                                              Waldorf, but they got a roof over their heads and they get lots
                                              of attention…. (cage business.)

Zookeeper:                            Why don’t you jump up on that perch and see what it feels
                                              like?

Visitor:                                   That’s crazy (He starts to exit.)

Zookeeper:                            You’re here already and nobody’s watching. You’ll never get
                                              another chance like this.

Visitor:                                    I feel stupid.

Zookeeper:                            Try to imagine what you would feel like if you were a tiger,
                                               curled up there, watching, waiting, twitching your
                                               tail…. Springing down on the weak, helpless men…. (the
                                               visitor slowly mounts the perch, assuming a cat pose.)
                                               Sinking your teeth into them…. Tearing off a piece of meat….
                                               Padding off to a quiet, concealed place, to eat without
                                               anyone watching. (The zookeeper slowly goes to the cage
                                               door and slips out.)

Visitor:                                    What’re you doing? (He starts to get up.) I don’t want to stay 
                                               in here.

Zookeeper:                             Neither does the tiger.

Visitor:                                   He’s just an animal!

Zookeeper:                             I know. (He locks cage.)

Visitor:                                    This isn’t funny!

Zookeeper:                             I know.

Visitor:                                    Let me out!…. (The zookeeper starts to exit. The lights
                                               slowly fade.) Come back here!…. Help! Somebody get me
                                               out of here. Help! Where are you going?

Zookeeper:                             Inside. To see if the tiger wants to visit you. 

(Blackout.)