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  • Writer's pictureCamilla Maccaferri

Sweet Jane

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

A short play written in San Francisco in 2007 about a young man painfully discovering his identity and his sister trying to help him.

Fernando, a young man, 25 years old.

Maria, his sister, 17.

On stage there’s a chair in the middle and aside a table with a long playing stereo.

Fernando is sitting on the chair, his head between his hands. He wears a white and partially torn t-shirt and a pair of old blue jeans. He has a silver glitter scarf on his knees. He stands up, puts on a Billy Holiday record and stares at the chair for a while. The music fades away while he climbs on the chair and makes a knot with the scarf, then hangs it on the ceiling. He turns back to the audience and stands on the chair. Meanwhile, Maria silently enters and stares at him. After a few seconds, she asks:

Maria: What are you doing?

Fernando: I’m trying to die.

Maria: Again.

Fernando: Again.

Maria: You won’t do it.

Fernando: You won’t stop me.

Maria: Not like I did the last time.

Fernando: Not like you did the last time.

Maria (impersonally, as she knows the lines): You can’t do it. You are so young, you have your whole life to live.

Fernando: I hate my life.

Maria: Then make an effort to improve it.

Fernando: I can’t.

Maria: Sure you can. Everyone can. It’s a question of will.

Fernando: I have no will.

Maria: You have to trust yourself.

Fernando: I hate myself.

Maria: And you wanna die.

Fernando: And I wanna die.

Maria: Then what about mum? What if you die? You know she’s so sick since dad’s gone. If you kill yourself, she won’t stand it.

Fernando: I didn’t like dad. He didn’t like me.

Maria: But she loved him. And she loves you.

Fernando: How do you know it?

Maria: Because she’s your mother.

Fernando: Then, what? Dad hated me. And he was my father.

Maria: It’s different.

Fernando: Why?

Maria: Because she grew you inside her. You came out of her womb. She fed you from her breast.

Fernando: Don’t even mention it. It’s so disgusting.

Maria: You don’t really think it’s disgusting.

Fernando: No. You’re right.

Maria: Get down.

Fernando: Ok.

Maria: (smiling) All right.

Fernando gets down, wraps the sharp around his neck and sits. Maria smiles.

Fernando: How’s school doing?

Maria: Fine. Lots of homework. I’ve got an A in my Maths test.

Fernando: You’re so smart.

Maria: It was pretty easy.

Fernando: I wish I was smart like you.

Maria: You’re even smarter.

Fernando: I’m not. Dad used to say I’m a total failure.

Maria: Now he’s dead.

Fernando: I know.

Maria: Did you call Tony back?

Fernando: No.

Maria: Why? He’s so nice. And he cares so much about you.

Fernando: I don’t want to see him anymore.

Maria: That’s what you said the last time.

Fernando: This time is over.

Maria: Why are you hurting yourself?

Fernando: I hate myself.

Maria: Why are you hurting Tony then?

Fernando: I don’t know.

Maria: You don’t hate him.

Fernando: No.

Maria: I’m going to the party on Saturday.

Fernando: What are you wearing?

Maria: The red dress.

Fernando: You should wear the silver one.

Maria: You think so?

Fernando: Yes. It makes you shine. I wish I could shine like you.

Maria: Why did you argue with Tony?

Fernando: I’ve been rude to him.

Maria: Stop it.

Fernando: I can’t.

Maria: I know.

Fernando: Try the dress on.

Maria: Now?

Fernando: Yes. Please.

Maria: Ok.

She is walking out stage when Fernando calls her.

Fernando: Maria?

Maria: Yes?

Fernando: You think I should say Tony I’m sorry?

Maria: Totally.

She walks out.

Fernando stands up and wanders back and forth on the stage. Suddenly he starts screaming:


He clears his throat.


He falls down his knees and starts crying.

Fernando: Please Tony, I didn’t mean it. TOOOOOOOOOOOOONY!

Maria comes back. She’s wearing a silver dress. Fernando stays on his knees.

Fernando: There it is. You’re so beautiful.

Maria: Do I look like Blanche Dubois?

Fernando: Much better. You know I don’t like her.

Maria: I know.

Fernando: Why people think she’s such a great character? I love Stella.

Maria: You love her because she’s pregnant.

Fernando: Don’t say it again.

Maria: But it’s true.

Fernando: I don’t know.

Maria: What do you think about the shoes?

Fernando: You should get a new pair.

Maria: I don’t have any money.

Fernando: I’ll lend you some.

He stands up and looks for the wallet in his pocket.

Maria: You wanna go and do some shopping?

Fernando: No.

Maria: Why?

Fernando: It makes me feel sad.

Maria: I understand.

Fernando: Take off the dress, now.

Maria: Alright.

She takes off the dress and puts it on the chair.

Maria: So you’re gonna tell Tony you’re sorry.

Fernando: I think so.

Maria: Like Kowalski?

Fernando: I hate Kowalski.

Maria: I know.

Fernando: When dad died, I didn’t come to the funeral.

Maria (nods).

Fernando: I feel guilty.

Maria: That’s what you’re supposed to feel.

Fernando: I feel guilty because I’m supposed to feel guilty. I don’t really feel guilty.

Maria: You should. And you shouldn’t.

Fernando: Exactly. That’s how I feel.

Maria: I know.

Fernando: I hope you’ll meet someone at the party.

Maria: What do you mean?

Fernando: Someone special.

Maria: Why?

Fernando: So you’ll fall in love.

Maria: So what?

Fernando: You’ll get married.

Maria: I’m only seventeen.

Fernando: I know.

Maria: I’m not going to get married.

Fernando: Let me dream. Please.

Maria: Alright.

Fernando: You’ll have a white dress. It will be bright. But it won’t be too white. The right white. Cold, icy. Like the moon.

Maria: And then?

Fernando: You’ll be pregnant.

Maria: Will I?

Fernando: Yes. And you’ll have a round belly. Soft. It will be so cute. I’ll touch it and I’ll feel the baby moving and kicking.

Maria: Is it a girl or a boy?

Fernando: (thoughtful): Let me see…I can’t tell.

Maria: Why?

Fernando: I can’t see. It turns its back on me.

Maria: Or you don’t want to see.

Fernando: I don’t know.

Maria: And then?

Fernando: And then you will give the baby birth. You’ll be sweating and panting. I’ll hold your hand. I’ll help you with breathing exercises. And when you’ll feel like screaming, we’ll scream together.

Maria: What will we scream?

Fernando: “Stella!” And all the doctors and the nurses will stare at us like we are crazy. But this will make you laugh. You’ll forget about the pain for a while.

Maria: That’s nice from you. And then what?

Fernando: And then you’ll scream to the stars and it will come out. All covered in blood. And I will cut the chord.

Maria: Now you can tell.

Fernando: Tell what?

Maria: If it’s a girl or a boy.

Fernando: No.

Maria: Why?

Fernando: It’s wrapped in a towel.

Maria: But you cut the chord.

Fernando: It was bloody and I was nervous. I really can’t tell, really.

Maria: And what about mom?

Fernando: She’s crying. Of joy.

Maria: I never saw her crying of joy.

Fernando: Neither I.

Maria: I know.

Fernando: Do you think she can understand?

Maria: What?

Fernando: Why I didn’t come to dad’s funeral.

Maria: I don’t know.

Fernando: But I told her.

Maria: You did.

Fernando: So?

Maria: Maybe she understands. But she can’t accept it.

Fernando: Dad hated me. He was disgusted by me.

Maria: Yes. But he was still your father.

Fernando: That doesn’t make him a good person.

Maria: No. But you should have shown you’re a better person.

Fernando: But I’m not. I’m much worse.

Maria: Tony tried to convince you to come.

Fernando: He did.

Maria: But you never listen to him.

Fernando: No. I did it for him.

Maria: You didn’t. You did it for you. Try to be just.

Fernando: Alright. But they didn’t want him to come.

Maria: I know.

Fernando: Do you believe in witchcraft?

Maria: No.

Fernando: Neither do I.

Maria: It would be useful, though.

Fernando: Yes. Do you believe Jesus was a shaman?

Maria: A sort of.

Fernando: So you don’t believe in Jesus?

Maria: I don’t know.

Fernando: I do. He made miracles.

Maria: They say so.

Fernando: What would you ask to Jesus?

Maria: I don’t know.

Fernando: Think of something. Something you really want.

Maria: That mommy could cry of joy.

Fernando: Is that all?

Maria: I think so.

Fernando: I would ask him why did he do this to me.

Maria: 'This' what?

Fernando: You know.

Maria: He might not know.

Fernando: But he must know.

Maria: Why?

Fernando: Because he did it.

Maria: How do you know?

Fernando: Who else?

Maria: I don’t know.

Fernando: I would ask him to repair it.

Maria: How could he do so?

Fernando: He must know.

Maria: Do you wanna dance?

Fernando: Yes. It makes me feel sad.

Maria: So?

Fernando: A sort of sadness I like.

Maria: Alright.

She puts on a rock record and they start dancing like crazy. They reach a frenetic climax and they fall to the floor.

Fernando: Leave.

Maria: Alright.

She is going out while Fernando calls her back.

Fernando: Maria.

She turns to Fernando.

Fernando: Are you ashamed of me?

Maria: Of course not.

Fernando: Why?

Maria: Because I love you.

Fernando: Why? Just because I’m your brother?

Maria: No. Because I like you. I like the person you are.

Fernando: But I’m not neither a person.

Maria: What are you, then?

Fernando: A half-something.

Maria: I like you anyway. You make me laugh. You’re the best thing I have, I guess.

Fernando: So?

Maria: I feel sorry when I see you’re suffering. I wish I could stop it.

Fernando: You can’t.

Maria: I know.

Fernando: Nobody can.

Maria: Neither Tony?

Fernando: Neither him.

Maria: It’s because you hate yourself.

Fernando: And I wanna die.

Maria: And you wanna die.

She goes out. Fernando stays for a while on the floor, then he stands up, goes near the chair, grabs the dress, stares at it, touches it, feels it and finally tries it on.

Fernando: I’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are. Dad, watch me now. Can you see me, dad? Can you understand what I am? Can you? Look at me dad. Look at my shining dress. I’m so beautiful. I’m bright. I reflect the light. I am the light. I’ll be your mirror, dad. Reflect what you are. That’s why you hated me. Because you were afraid, weren’t you? You were afraid to be like I am. You were afraid to shine with such a beautiful dress. Like I do. You were fucking afraid of me, dad!

He starts crying while he falls down his knees. Maria comes back. Without saying a word, she approaches Fernando and puts her arm around his neck. He relaxes on her chest. She caresses his head until he doesn’t stop crying.

Fernando: Leave.

Maria: No. If I leave you’ll start it all again.

Fernando: I want to be alone.

Maria: You don’t really want it.

Fernando: I don’t know. I’m always alone someway.

Maria: What do you mean?

Fernando: I mean that when I’m with other people, they don’t really know who I am. So I’m not really with them. There’s another someone there. The real me is somewhere else.

Maria: But I know you. So you’re never alone with me.

Fernando: Yes. It’s something I can’t stand, sometimes.

Maria: And Tony knows you.

Fernando: He doesn’t.

Maria: I’m sure he does.

Fernando: I tell you he doesn’t know anything about me. The real me.

Maria: But he loves you.

Fernando: How do you know?

Maria: Because it’s obvious.

Fernando: Shut up.

Maria stands up, she seems really hurt.

Maria: You never talked to me this way.

Fernando: You don’t understand shit. You think you know everything. Then I’ll tell you, you’re totally wrong. Tony loves someone else. I’m no Kowalski. I want to be Stella. You don’t understand! You have a womb and from that womb one day you’ll give life to someone! You’ll create it into you. And I will never, never make it! Maria. That’s what I always hated about you. Your name. Maria. Like Jesus mother. When we were kids at Christmas I was so jealous. Everyone kept on telling you that your name was Jesus mother and that you were holy and full of grace. I wasn’t. I wasn’t Jesus mother and I’ll never be nobody’s mother. I wish I could have a blue veil and lay in the straw and have this little baby on my chest. Feed him. When I looked to the crèche, I so badly dreamed it. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be Maria. But I wasn’t. You were. And I hated you for this. Why can’t I be holy? Why can’t I do something holy?

Maria: I don’t know. What do you want me to say? I’m sorry.

Fernando: No you aren’t.

Maria: No. Because it doesn’t make any sense.

Fernando: I don’t care. Get out of here.

Maria: So you won’t call Tony?

Fernando: None of your business.

Maria: Alright.

Maria leaves the room. Fernando takes off the dress and sits on the floor, crossing his legs.

Fernando: Look at what you’ve done, dad. I had a sweet sister, who loved me above all, and now I don’t have her anymore. I had a nice guy, who was so kind to me, and now I don’t have him anymore. It’s all your fault, dad. Because you didn’t want me to play with Maria and her dolls. Because you didn’t want me to play with Tony and his soldiers. But you made me. You made me. There’s nothing wrong with me, dad. It’s you, who made me. It’s all your choice. You created me. You know what I am because you created me. Like Jesus. So, what? So you’re Jesus! I never thought of it! It’s so hilarious!

Fernando laughs like crazy, rolling on the floor. Maria enters. She has a blue drape in her hands.

Maria: Why are you laughing?

Fernando keeps on laughing for a while, then returns in control and sits again.

Fernando: You will die when I’ll tell you what I found out.

Maria: What?

Fernando: Well, I figured out that…(laughs)…that…(laughs)….oh, I’m sorry, it’s…it’s so fun I can’t tell…(laughs)…no, seriously. (He suddenly stops laughing) Ok. Here it is. Dad. He is…(laughs)…sorry I can’t make it…it’s too…ok, sit down.

Maria sits on the floor next to him. She looks amused.

Maria: Ok, now will you tell me what’s going on?

Fernando: Yes. Alright. So, dad is Jesus! (laughs) Isn’t it too funny?

Maria stands still for a while, as she was thinking about it then she suddenly starts laughing. The two roll on the floor together laughing. When they have finished, Maria stands up, holds Fernando’s hand and helps him standing up.

Maria: I have something for you.

Fernando: What?

Maria: A veil.

She picks up a light blue piece of cloth from the floor.

Maria: So you can be me. You can be Maria. And Stella.

Fernando: Really?

Maria: Yes. Now I put it on you. And I give you the power of creating life.

Fernando: Will you…? Can you…?

Maria: Yes, I can.

Fernando: And what about Tony? Maria: I knew you were afraid. Listen, Tony loves you. He will love you anyway.

Fernando: So you think I should…?

Maria: When you’ll wear the veil everything will be clear to you.

Fernando: And what about mom? Will I make her cry?

Maria: Maybe. But you can’t stand this anymore. I can’t. We both know you want it. So do it.

Fernando: And I will have a womb, right?

Maria: Yes, you will.

Fernando: And I will create life.

Maria: Yes.

Fernando: And I won’t hate myself anymore.

Maria: No.

Fernando: And I won’t stop wanting to die.

Maria: Yes.

Fernando: Let’s do it! No, wait a minute, what about dad?

Maria: He’s dead.

Fernando: But he will know…he is Jesus, don’t you remember? He will know anyway.

Maria: So, what? Maybe he can help.

Fernando: What do you mean?

Maria: This magic is expensive. But he left something.

Fernando: But I can’t use what he left for…

Maria: Why not?

Fernando: He hated me.

Maria: That’s the point. Now, down on your knees.

Fernando obeys.

Maria: Are you ready?

Fernando: Yes.

Maria: There is nothing more to be said, then. Oh, no, one more thing. What’s your name?

Fernando: You mean…?

Maria: Yes. You have to choose one.

Fernando: Jane.

Maria: Jane? I thought you'd go for Stella.

Fernando: No, Jane. Like the song, Sweet Jane. It says: “And everyone who’d ever had a heart they wouldn’t turn around and break it”.

Maria: I know.

Fernando: I used to think that dad didn’t have a heart when I listened to this song.

Maria: I see.

Fernando: And it says: “and everyone who’d ever played a part, they wouldn’t turn around and hate it”.

Maria: Yes.

Fernando: This is me. I’ve always played a part. But I’ve always hated it.

Maria: I know. You won’t need to play parts again.

Maria and Fernando stay still, in silence for a while, the Maria puts the veil on Fernando, covering his head and his shoulders. She bends and kisses him on his mouth, then they hug. Maria stands up and holds Fernando’s hands.

Maria: Stand up, Jane.

Fernando: Can I…?

Maria: Yes, you can.

Fernando stands up.

Maria: And now, go and call Tony. Tell him.

Fernando: I will.

Maria: And then we’ll tell mom.

Fernando: Yes.

Maria: It’s all over now.

Fernando: Yes.

Maria: Go.

Fernando: yes.

He walks away from her, the he turns to her.

Fernando: Maria?


Fernando: Thank you.

Maria: Alright.

Fernando exits while Maria sits on the chair.


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