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PURIM    *'9m9f A one-hour old-fashion melodrama about Esther

                            SYNOPSIS

In about 500 B.C., during the reign of King Xerxes of the
Medo-Persian empire, Esther, a Hebrew girl, becomes queen
because the reigning queen is disrespectful. Her cousin,
Mordecai saves the king's life at about the same time as Haman
becomes prime minister. But, because of Haman's vanity and
Mordecai's devotion to God, Haman plots the murder of all
Hebrews in the empire. Esther risks her own life to save the
Hebrews. Esther and Mordecai both become national heroes, while
Haman and his wife are condemned.

                          CHARACTERS

GATEKEEPER -- big, loud, cowardly soldier
XERXES -- macho warrior king
MORDECAI -- larger-than-life superhero
ESTHER -- pretty, naive heroine
HAMAN -- heartless, ruthless villain
ZARISH -- Haman's greedy, clever wife
CROWD -- an indefinite number of nobles, both sexes

Eight other characters are recruited from among audience members.

                         SCENE SUMMARY

Two sets required: the palace gate and the throne room.

SCENE 1 Gate: Introduction of main characters. King Xerxes'
announces triumphal banquet. Zarish steals banquet invitation,
recruits Haman.

SCENE 2 Throne: Xerxes puts Haman in charge of banquet.

SCENE 3 Gate: Zarish plots with Haman to depose Queen Vashti.

SCENE 4 Throne: Banquet. Xerxes is forced to select a new queen.

SCENE 5 Gate: Mordecai sends Esther to vie for queen. Zarish
plots to become the only queen candidate.

SCENE 6 Throne: Xerxes chooses Esther over Zarish. Zarish and
Haman plot to kill Xerxes, make Haman king.

SCENE 7 Gate: Mordecai overhears Zarish pay Gatekeeper to kill
Xerxes. Haman overhears Mordecai threaten to expose the plot.

SCENE 8 Throne: Gatekeeper reports plot to Xerxes. Haman
"catches" would-be assassins. Xerxes names Haman prime minister.

SCENE 9 Gate: Haman exalts self. Mordecai refuses to bow down
to Haman. Haman and Zarish plot Mordecai's murder.

SCENE 10 Throne: Haman receives permission to kill all Jews.
Esther reminds Xerxes Mordecai foiled a murder plot. Xerxes
commands Haman to give Mordecai hero's welcome.

SCENE 11 Gate: Mordecai overhears plot to kill all Jews.
Mordecai talks Esther into using influence on Xerxes.

SCENE 12 Throne: Esther approaches throne, exposes Haman. Xerxes
hangs Haman on his own gallows. Mordecai expects death, becomes
prime minister. All Jews are saved. Celebration.

                        PRODUCTION NOTES

Speedy scene changes are essential. If stage space permits, the
two sets should be erected on opposite ends of a shared stage.
Otherwise, scenery should be light-weight and simple and/or
erected on dollies for quick rotation.

Light cues and curtain cues were purposely omitted because of
the great variance between churches.

Because actors and audience members ascend and descend from the
stage during the play, special lighting and great care should be
used to prevent falls on dimly lit stairs. The audience should
be warned in advance that those in the front row are likely to
be recruited to participate in the play.

Costumes start with basic Arabian tunics, headdresses and
sandals for men and women. Capes and hoods are added as needed.

Please email me at bobsnook@fea.net if you perform
this play to let me know what changes and adjustments you had to
make to fit your venue, so that others may benefit from your
experience.


                    FOR RICHER OR FOR PURIM

                          by Bob Snook


SCENE 1 Gate: Introduction of main characters. King Xerxes'
announces triumphal banquet. Zarish steals banquet invitation,
recruits Haman.

GATEKEEPER -- (at the beginning of every scene is always
stationed next to exit, pounds spear handle on floor three
times) Hear ye, hear ye, here ye. The exalted emperor of Persia,
King Xerxes.

(sound cue: fanfare)

CROWD -- (enter through audience waving and shouting, line up
along route to gate, bow as Xerxes passes by) Hazah, hazah....

XERXES -- (follows dressed in crown and royal robes, nods and
acknowledges those who bow, when onstage turns to audience nods,
then stops) Gatekeeper!

(sound cue: fanfare halts as needle across phonograph record or
stopped tape)

GATEKEEPER -- Yes, Your Majesty?

XERXES -- Who are these (points to audience) people?

GATEKEEPER -- I don't know, Your Majesty. They were seated here
when I arrived. I don't think they're from around here. I think
they're foreigners. They're rather tastelessly dressed.

XERXES -- Is that any way to dress when welcoming the greatest
king who ever lived?!

GATEKEEPER -- Shame upon you all!

XERXES -- Furthermore, I didn't hear a single one of them say
hazah! Did you?

GATEKEEPER -- Not a single one.

XERXES -- Off with their heads!

GATEKEEPER -- Your Majesty, is that really necessary?

XERXES -- No. I suppose you could run them through with a spear.
But I find I get fewer complaints if they have no heads.

GATEKEEPER -- Your Majesty, I beg you, please don't make me kill
them.

XERXES -- Why not? Why should they be allowed to live?!

GATEKEEPER -- Because it makes me nauseous. Last time I killed a
person, I vomited for two hours and I couldn't sleep a wink for
three days.

XERXES -- Then, you are a coward and you shall die too!

GATEKEEPER -- Oh, dear. What shall we do?!

MORDECAI -- (enters wearing a pure white robe with flowing cape
and a white yamulka or broad-brimmed hat with curly side burns)
Never fear! I will save you! (acknowledges applause with a bow
and a toothy smile, bows to Xerxes)

XERXES -- Gatekeeper who is this person?

GATEKEEPER -- His name is Mordecai, (pronounced MORE-DECK-EYE),
Your Majesty. He is one of the Hebrews from the country of
Israel who are now captives of the King.

XERXES -- And just how does this foreigner propose to save these
other foreigners from certain death?

MORDECAI -- (straightens) If it please Your Majesty, these
foreigners mean no disrespect. In addition to being tastelessly
dressed, they are also stupid. But they are trainable. If I may
demonstrate... (shouts to audience as if training a dog) Dear
friends, it is the custom of this land to greet the king's grand
entrances with a loud and hearty HAZAH! Say it with me. (motions
broadly) HAZAH! Again. HAZAH! (to Xerxes) You see, Your Majesty,
it was simply a matter of stupidity, not disrespect.

XERXES -- I don't know. I think a good slaughter would suit
them.

MORDECAI -- Your Majesty, if I may, I would suggest that these
poor stupid people are but a few of many foreigners in your vast
empire who are ignorant of your greatness. There are many tribes
and nations in your empire that have no idea what a great
warrior and king they have on the throne. Perhaps the king would
do well to make his greatness more widely known by giving a
banquet in his magnificent new palace, where he could display
the fearsome weapons in his great armory and the huge fortunes
of gold and silver and precious jewels in his vast treasury.

XERXES -- Good idea! And I could have all these foreigners
beheaded at the banquet!

GATEKEEPER -- I think I'm going to be sick.

MORDECAI -- (descends to audience) Your majesty. I have an even
better idea!

XERXES -- I can't imagine what could be better than rolling a
few heads.

MORDECAI -- (selects a girl from audience, pulls her to her
feet) The emperor could take a wife! Is she not beautiful?
(escorts girl to stage, puts girl's hand in king's hand)

XERXES -- Breath-taking! In all the world, I have never seen
such beauty! By Jove, I think he's got something there! We shall
have a banquet where everyone will see the might of my armory,
the splendor of my treasury AND the beauty of my new wife!
(takes girls hand)

GATEKEEPER -- Does this mean that Your Majesty will spare my
life?

MORDECAI -- ...And the lives of these tastelessly dressed
foreigners?

XERXES -- Yes, it pleases me to let them live. I wouldn't want
my beautiful wife to be in mourning during my banquet.

GATEKEEPER -- (kneels) Thank you, Your Majesty. Thank you!

XERXES -- Gatekeeper command the royal scribes to prepare the
guest list and the invitations for the banquet!

GATEKEEPER -- (stands) I... I'm sorry, Your Majesty, but your
new palace does not have any scribes on the staff as yet.

XERXES -- Very well, choose two scribes from among these
tastelessly dressed foreigners.

MORDECAI -- Allow me. (descends to audience) Do any of you
foreigners know how to read and write? (chooses two children,
escorts them to stage) You and you shall be the king's royal
scribes. Prepare the guest list for the banquet and write the
invitations. (exits with them to palace)

XERXES -- Well, what are you all waiting for?! (exiting to
palace, with new wife on his arm) Prepare for the banquet!

CROWD -- (all bow, prompt audience to shout) Hazah! Hazah....

(sound cue: fanfare until Xerxes is out of sight)

GATEKEEPER -- Halt! Who goes there?! Oh. It's only Zarish, the
black widow.

ZARISH -- (enters wearing black tunic with black cape held over
face, snears at audience, crosses to Gatekeeper) Listen,
darling, will you please stop referring to me as the BLACK
WIDOW? (pulls kerchief from sleeves, feigns tears) I'm just a
poor unfortunate widow who's trying to scratch out a living
after the tragic loss of my dear departed husband.

GATEKEEPER -- Your last husband was not the only one to die
under mysterious circumstances.

ZARISH -- (wiping eyes) What could you possibly mean, darling?

GATEKEEPER -- All five of your husbands were extremely wealthy.
And all five of them died immediately after being married to
you.

ZARISH -- I'm sorry, you're wrong, darling.

GATEKEEPER -- Wrong? Didn't all five of them die on their
wedding night after eating their first home cooked meal?

ZARISH -- That's where you're wrong, darling. I only married
four of them. The fifth one signed over his property to me
before I married him. (laughs fiendishly, backs upstage)

MORDECAI -- (enters from palace guides scribes, who carry
scrolls tied with red ribbons, stand near Gatekeeper, hand out
scrolls to those filing by)

GATEKEEPER -- (pounds spear on floor three times) Hear ye, hear
ye, here ye, by order of the king, the invitations to the royal
banquet have been prepared. All people of noble birth draw near
and receive your invitation.

CROWD -- (file past scribes, receive invitation scrolls, tuck
them under downstage arm, exit conversing)

ZARISH -- (sneaks up behind someone, steals scroll from under
arm, mugs at audience) You foreigners wouldn't understand. You
see, a poor unfortunate widow like me would never be invited to
a banquet. But, there will be many eligible bachelors attending
the banquet. And, well, you know, a poor lonely widow has to
take advantage of every opportunity. (laughs fiendishly, turns
away, reads scroll)

MORDECAI -- (guides scribes back to their seats in audience,
exits) Well done, scribes.

GATEKEEPER -- (to audience) Psst. You foreigners better watch
your backs. Here comes that scoundrel Haman. (pronounced
HAY-MAN).

HAMAN -- (enters wearing black tunic with black cape held over
face, acknowledges boos from audience) Hey, hey, hey! Why all
the animosity? I'm a highly admired civil servant in the upper
echelons of government.

GATEKEEPER -- (aside to audience) He's the manager of the sewer
department. And he's the most despicable human being in the
empire.

HAMAN -- (approaches Gatekeeper) Hey, pal, I heard that. And I
think you're being just a little unfair.

GATEKEEPER -- Unfair?

HAMAN -- Yes.

GATEKEEPER -- Do you deny that your last three promotions have
been the result of the murders of your last three supervisors?

HAMAN -- How can you say that?! Noone ever found the bodies.
(laughs fiendishly to audience, turns to Gatekeeper) I heard the
king is giving a banquet. Is there an invitation for me?

GATEKEEPER -- Sorry, civil servants were not invited.

HAMAN -- This is an outrage! I'm one of the most influential men
in the empire.

ZARISH -- (turns with a flourish) Really, darling?! Are you
married?

HAMAN -- Married?! What does being married have to do with being
outraged?! I...

ZARISH -- (flourishes scroll in front of Haman, like a worm in
front of a fish) Well, darling, I just happen to have an
invitation to the king's banquet, and I just happen to be
without an escort.

HAMAN -- Really?! Well, as luck would have it, I'm a bachelor.

ZARISH -- Really, darling?! Isn't it fortuitous for both of us?!

HAMAN -- (reaches for scroll) Yes, it is!

ZARISH -- (turns away, keeping scroll just out of reach) So,
tell me, darling, did I hear that you were a high government
official?

HAMAN -- Yes. I am a department manager.

ZARISH -- What department, darling?

HAMAN -- What does it matter, darling? (reaches for scroll)

ZARISH -- (moves toward exit, keeping scroll out of reach) It
matters, darling. A woman of my influence can't be seen at an
important banquet with just anybody.

HAMAN -- Let's just say that I'm on the fast track to success.

ZARISH -- Really, darling?!

HAMAN -- (reaching for scroll) Really. I'm on my way up.

ZARISH -- (dangles scroll invitingly while exiting) Well, then,
darling, let's go prepare our banquet strategy, shall we?

HAMAN -- (exits reaching for scroll) Strategy? You mean there's
a strategy to attending a banquet?

GATEKEEPER -- (pounds spear on floor three times) Hear ye, hear
ye, here ye, announcing the arrival of the man who saved the
lives of the tastelessly dressed foreigners and, of course, me.
Please give a warm round of applause to Mordecai the Hebrew.
(motions to Mordecai)

MORDECAI -- (enters, bows, acknowledges applause) Please, you're
too kind. I'm merely a man of God doing the work of God. I
didn't do anything for you that you wouldn't have done for me.
(approaches Gatekeeper) Gatekeeper, have you seen my beautiful
and innocent cousin Hadassah? I asked her to meet me here.

GATEKEEPER -- (aside to audience) Mordecai, here, has been
coming to the palace gate every day since his beautiful and
innocent cousin Hadassah attained the age of marriage. He hopes
to find a wealthy bachelor to marry her. (to Mordecai) No. I'm
sure I would have remembered seeing Hadassah. She has more
curves than a mountain rode. She has more admirers than flies on
a manure pile. She has more...

MORDECAI -- Oh, here she comes now!

GATEKEEPER -- (pounds spear on floor three times) Hear ye, hear
ye, here ye, announcing the arrival of the beautiful and
innocent cousin of our hero Mordecai, the beautiful and innocent
Hadassah.

ESTHER -- (enters wearing pure white tunic and cape with hood
covering head, bows to audience) Thank you. You're very kind.
(turns to Mordecai) Cousin Mordecai, who are these strangers?
(points to audience)

MORDECAI -- They're foreigners. They're really friendly, aren't
they?

ESTHER -- Yes, but they dress so tastelessly. You'd better warn
them, Cousin Mordecai. King Xerxes does not like his subjects to
dress tastelessly.

MORDECAI -- We've already covered the dress code, Hadassah.

GATEKEEPER -- The king was going to have them killed. But your
cousin Mordecai saved their lives.

ESTHER -- Oh, Mordecai, you are my hero! (leans in to kiss
Mordecai.

MORDECAI -- (leans in to kiss Esther, backs away suddenly)
Gatekeeper, has anyone asked to marry my beautiful and innocent
cousin, Hadassah?

GATEKEEPER -- I have.

MORDECAI -- Gatekeeper, I have told you many times. I will allow
my beautiful and innocent cousin to marry only a Hebrew from the
land of Israel and only a man of noble birth. Such a beautiful
and innocent woman deserves no less than (leans in to kiss
Esther) the... very... best...

GATEKEEPER -- Why don't you marry her yourself, Mordecai?

MORDECAI -- (turns suddenly) Huh? Oh, ah, I would if I could,
Gatekeeper. Noone could love Hadassah more than I do. But I am
dirt poor. Hadassah deserves more than I can give her. (leans in
to kiss Esther) She deserves the... very... best... (turns
suddenly) Gatekeeper, I was talking to a Hebrew bachelor
earlier. He's a man of noble birth who was interested in
marriage. You haven't seen him?

GATEKEEPER -- No. In fact, all the men of noble birth are
probably busy preparing for the king's banquet.

MORDECAI -- Oh, yes, the banquet. (exiting) Come, Hadassah,
we'll return here after the banquet.

ZARISH -- (enters, acknowledges boos) You foreigners have no
idea who you're dealing with. You are looking at the next queen
of the empire. This fool, Haman, thinks I'm going to make him
prime minister. But as soon as I've used him to become queen,
I'll feed him a nice home cooked meal. (laughs fiendishly) Oh,
speak of the devil, here he comes now!

HAMAN -- (enters, acknowledges boos) You foreigners have no idea
who you're dealing with. I don't know how this woman Zarish is
going to pull it off, but she promised that if I can get an
audience with the king, she will make sure that I advance up the
ladder of success, maybe even become the prime minister. Prime
minister. Prime minister Haman. How does that sound? (laughs
fiendishly, turns to Gatekeeper) Gatekeeper, tell the king I'd
like an audience with him.

GATEKEEPER -- The king is preparing for the banquet. He's not
seeing anyone.

HAMAN -- (offers a pouch of coins) There's 20 drachmas in here.

GATEKEEPER -- Do you think that the gatekeeper of the king would
take a bribe?!

HAMAN -- If you can get me in to see the king, there will be 40
drachmas more for you.

GATEKEEPER -- Make it fifty.

HAMAN -- Done.

GATEKEEPER -- (takes pouch, aside to audience) Don't you look at
me like that! This is a minimum wage job with no retirement
benefits. I don't even get hospitalization insurance. A man has
to look after his own interests. (to Haman) Wait here. I'll be
right back. (exits to palace)

HAMAN -- (turns to Zarish) Well, Zarish, it looks like he's
going to get me in to see the king. What am I going to say when
I get in there?

ZARISH -- First, you get yourself appointed as chairman of the
banquet committee.

HAMAN -- Yes, yes, go on.

ZARISH -- Then, once you get the king to trust you with the
details of the banquet, you will tell him to introduce his
beautiful new wife at the climax of the banquet at the stroke of
midnight.

HAMAN -- Zarish, darling, the queen is a very beautiful woman
and the king is a very jealous man. If I even mention his wife,
he could think I'm trying to...

ZARISH -- (turns to exit) ...Very well. I'll find someone else
who wants to become prime minister.

HAMAN -- (steps into her path) I didn't say I WOULDN'T do it.

ZARISH -- (smirks to audience) So, you'll do it?

HAMAN -- Sure. But why? What difference does it make what time
of day his wife is introduced?

ZARISH -- You ask too many questions, darling. (dangles scroll
like bait) Perhaps I should find someone else to escort me to
the banquet.

HAMAN -- (reaches longingly for scroll) No more questions. I'll
do exactly as you ask. (rushes, misses scroll, turns, follows)

ZARISH -- (turns like a bull fighter, to audience, exiting) Men
are so easily manipulated. (laughs fiendishly)

GATEKEEPER -- (enters) The king will see you now. (exits to
palace) Come with me.

HAMAN -- (hands Gatekeeper another pouch of coins) Splendid!
(follows, laughing fiendishly)


SCENE 2 Throne: Xerxes puts Haman in charge of banquet.

(Xerxes paces floor, reading scroll)

HAMAN -- (enters, bows) May the king live forever.

XERXES -- I don't have time to talk about sewers, Haman. I'm
trying to plan a banquet. (points to scroll)

HAMAN -- I'm not here to talk about sewers, Your Majesty. I came
to offer my expertise in planning the banquet.

XERXES -- What does the manager of the department of sewers know
about planning a banquet?

HAMAN -- We prefer to call it the department of public works,
Your Majesty.

XERXES -- Whatever.

HAMAN -- I am a tireless public servant, Your Majesty. I'm quite
accustomed to planning mundane details of even the most complex
project. I would be more than happy to relieve Your Majesty of
the drudgery of the many details of food, decorations,
transportation and logistics.

XERXES -- I won't have to pay you extra for this logistics, will
I, Haman?

HAMAN -- Oh, no sir. I am a dedicated public servant. I seek no
personal reward, except the reward of your delight.

XERXES -- (offers scroll) The banquet is yours, Haman. Make me
look good.

HAMAN -- (takes scroll) So shall it be, Your Majesty. (bows and
backs away one step) One more thing, Your Majesty?

XERXES -- Yes?

HAMAN -- Of all the treasures in Persia, none exceed the beauty
of your new wife.

XERXES -- You have no business with my wife!

HAMAN -- No. But as the brightest jewel in your crown, your new
queen should be the highlight of the banquet.

XERXES -- Oh. Yes. I suppose she should.

HAMAN -- I was thinking that at the height of the banquet, you
could make a grand entrance. Then, immediately after we all
toast to our great and mighty king and conqueror, you could
introduce your beautiful new queen.

XERXES -- That sounds splendid!

HAMAN -- Let's say at the stroke of midnight?

XERXES -- Why do you need to know the exact time, Haman?! You
weren't planning some hanky-panky with my wife, were you, Haman?

HAMAN -- Oh, no, Your Majesty! No. I... I... being a public
servant who is used to planning things in great detail, I just
want to make sure things come off without a hitch. When Your
Majesty calls for his wife to appear before the admiring
throngs, we want to be sure she's ready and presentable, don't
we?

XERXES -- Alright. Midnight it is. (flicks hand) Go! Plan my
banquet!

HAMAN -- Just one more thing, Your Majesty?

XERXES -- (impatient) What is it?

HAMAN -- If my planning goes well. Would Your Majesty consider a
promotion for the hard working civil servant who...

XERXES -- ...We'll talk about it after the banquet, Haman! Go!

HAMAN -- (snears at audience, exiting) Yes, Your Majesty.


SCENE 3  Gate: Zarish plots with Haman to depose Queen Vashti.

HAMAN -- (enters from palace, crosses to Zarish) Woman, I hope
you know what you're doing!

ZARISH -- (enters opposite, acknowledges audience boos) These
tastelessly dressed foreigners are getting out of hand. Perhaps
when you become prime minister, you can have them all flogged.

HAMAN -- That would give be great delight.

ZARISH -- What did the king say?

HAMAN -- It's just as we planned. He will introduce his new
queen at the climax of the banquet at the stroke of midnight.

ZARISH -- (rubs hands) Very good. Very good.

HAMAN -- Just how is introducing the new queen at the stroke of
midnight going to make me prime minister?

ZARISH -- The king is not going to introduce his new queen.

HAMAN -- But I just went to all the trouble.... Just what do you
have in mind?

ZARISH -- The new queen will refuse to appear.

HAMAN -- But you don't know the new queen. How are you going to
get her to refuse?

ZARISH -- As chairman of the banquet committee, YOU have access
to every room in the palace. YOU will get me a key to the
queen's chambers. And I will pretend to be the Queen and I will
refuse to go to the banquet.

HAMAN -- But what about the queen?

ZARISH -- I'm told that you have a talent for making people
disappear.

HAMAN -- Me?! I've never done that to a WOMAN before!

ZARISH -- (turns to exit) Nevermind. I'll just find someone else
who wants to become prime minister.

HAMAN -- (steps into her path) I didn't say I WOULDN'T make her
disappear, DARLING!

ZARISH -- (smirks to audience) Then you'll do it?

HAMAN -- Tell me, just HOW is this going to make me prime
minister?

ZARISH -- When the queen refuses to make an appearance, the king
will be embarrassed in public. Then YOU will suggest that he
should save face by selecting another queen to replace her. Then
when the king decides to replace the queen, YOU will become the
chairman of the selection committee. I'm sure the king would
give a generous promotion to anyone who helps him find a new
queen...

HAMAN -- Say no more. I'm as good as chairman of the selection
committee. (rubs hands, laughs fiendishly) Today committee
chairman, tomorrow prime minister.

ZARISH -- You can celebrate your promotion later. Get rid of the
queen!

HAMAN -- The queen. Yes. Of course. The queen. (exits to palace)

ZARISH -- (exiting opposite) Men are so easily manipulated.
(laughs fiendishly)

HAMAN -- (reenters cautiously from palace dragging audience
girl at knife-point) Gatekeeper, is the widow Zarish gone?

GATEKEEPER -- Yes. She's gone. (gasps) Haman! That's our new
queen! What are you doing with her?

HAMAN -- The widow Zarish told me to make the queen disappear.
You know what that means, don't you?

GATEKEEPER -- Haman! You wouldn't!

HAMAN -- No. I wouldn't. I'm going to hide her among these
tastelessly dressed foreigners. (ushers audience girl back to
her seat)

GATEKEEPER -- Could it be that the heartless Haman is getting
soft?

HAMAN -- (ascends to stage) Don't underestimate me, Gatekeeper.
If you utter a word of this... (to audience) That goes for all
of you... if you utter a word of this to ANYBODY, she (points
dagger to girl) get's it! (points dagger to Gatekeeper, exiting)
I think we understand each other, don't we? (laughs fiendishly)

GATEKEEPER -- We understand each other perfectly.

HAMAN -- (laughs fiendishly, exits)


SCENE 4 Throne: Banquet. Xerxes is forced to select a new queen.

CROWD -- (line up along route to throne holding cups and
goblets, talking joyfully)

GATEKEEPER -- (pounds spear on floor three times) Hear ye, hear
ye, here ye, the king of Persia, King Xerxes.

(sound cue: fanfare until king reaches throne)

CROWD -- Hazah! Hazah! (bow in waves as Xerxes passes) Hazah!
(until Xerxes ascends the throne)

XERXES -- (crosses to throne, nodding to those who bow, turns to
audience) I see that the tastelessly dressed foreigners have
learned due respect for the king. (takes a cup from Haman)

HAMAN -- (raises cup) A toast to the greatest conqueror and king
who ever lived. To the king of the Persian Empire, which
stretches from India to Ethiopia, the greatest empire of all
time. A toast to King Xerxes. May he live forever!

CROWD -- May he live for ever. Hazah.

HAMAN -- (prompts audience) Hazah. Hazah.

XERXES -- (motions broadly to Gatekeeper)

ZARISH -- (exits stealthily)

GATEKEEPER -- (bows to Xerxes, exits)

XERXES -- Thank you all for coming to my banquet. Today, you
have all seen the greatest assemblage of weapons and military
might in history. Today, you have all seen the greatest
collection of gold and silver and precious jewels ever
assembled. Today you have seen my new palace, the greatest, most
magnificent palace ever built.

CROWD -- Hazah! Hazah!

XERXES -- And now, I have saved the very best for last. I shall
now present to you the most beautiful woman in all the world.
Gatekeeper, announce my wife, Queen Vashti!

GATEKEEPER -- (enters) Your Majesty, I'm sorry, but Queen Vashti
refuses to come!

CROWD -- (gasp)

XERXES -- What do you mean, she refuses to come? Didn't you tell
her that "I" summoned her?!

GATEKEEPER -- Yes, Your Majesty, but she said that she wasn't
going to let you....

XERXES -- Let me what?

GATEKEEPER -- I'm sorry for the language, Your Majesty, but this
is what she said. She said that she wasn't going to let you show
her off like a piece of meat.

CROWD -- (gasp)

XERXES -- Like a piece of meat?! Are you sure it was Vashti who
said that?

GATEKEEPER -- Well, no. She wouldn't let me into her chambers.
She talked to me through the door.

XERXES -- That's strange.

HAMAN -- Your Majesty should not put up with such impudence!
There are plenty of fish in the sea.

XERXES -- But she's so beautiful.

HAMAN -- A queen who embarrasses her king in public does not
deserve to be queen.

XERXES -- She's the most beautiful woman I have ever known.

HAMAN -- We will find you another wife, a wife who is even more
beautiful than Vashti and one who is loyal and submissive, I
will see to it myself!

XERXES -- Yes, yes, of course. I need a wife who is loyal.
But... Vashti is so beautiful.

HAMAN -- Fear not, Your Majesty. I will save the day! (ascends
throne, stands beside Xerxes, turns to audience) Ladies and
Gentlemen of Persia, I charge you all to go back to your
countries and communities and send your virgins of marriageable
age to the palace, so that we can select the fairest of the fair
as the next queen of Persia from among them. And I, Haman,
manager of public works will be in charge of the task force to
choose another queen. Hazah!

CROWD -- Hazah! Hazah!


SCENE 5  Gate: Mordecai sends Esther to vie for queen. Zarish
plots to become the only queen candidate.

GATEKEEPER -- (pounds spear on floor three times, reads from
scroll) Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, by order of King Xerxes and
Sewage Department manager Haman...

HAMAN -- (enters from palace) That's public works director
Haman.

GATEKEEPER -- Whatever. (shouts) By order of the King, all
virgins of marriageable age shall surrender themselves to the
palace harem in order to undergo the selection process for the
next queen of Persia.

HAMAN -- Gatekeeper, have you seen Zarish?

GATEKEEPER -- You mean the black widow?

HAMAN -- The black widow?! What are you talking about?!

ZARISH -- (enters opposite, acknowledges audience boos) You
foreigners are really getting on my nerves. (crosses to Haman)
Haman, darling, everything is moving along as planned, no?

HAMAN -- Zarish, darling, everything is moving along as planned,
yes. You are looking at the newly appointed chairman of the
selection committee! But just how are you planning to make me
prime minister?

ZARISH -- (snears at audience, holds finger near lips to hush
them, smiles innocently to Haman) It's quite simple really. As
soon as I become queen....

HAMAN -- Wait a minute! YOU are going to become queen?!

ZARISH -- Well, of course, darling! How else am I going to have
enough influence over the king to have him appoint you prime
minister.

HAMAN -- But YOU?! As QUEEN?!

ZARISH -- What's wrong with me as queen?

HAMAN -- The king specified that all queen candidates be
virgins. You've been married five times.

ZARISH -- Yes, but only for a total of two and a half hours.

HAMAN -- Two and a half hours?! You mean you were married to
each husband for only a half hour?

ZARISH -- It's a long story. I won't bore you with it. The
important thing is that as chairman of the selection committee,
you will make sure that none of the queen candidates is prettier
than me...

HAMAN -- I'm no magician.

ZARISH -- What was that?!

HAMAN -- I said I'm a great logician. I'll make sure that the
king chooses the queen candidate most likely to favor me as
prime minister.

ZARISH -- (exiting arm-in-arm with Haman) Good! Then we
understand each other.

ESTHER -- (enters with Mordecai) Please cousin Mordecai, please
don't make me go.

MORDECAI -- (enters with Esther) Hadassah, dear, if the king
commands it, we have no choice. (shouts) Excuse me, gatekeeper,
I understand the king has commanded all virgins in the empire to
come to the palace harem.

GATEKEEPER -- Yes.

MORDECAI -- Does that include foreigners, like us Hebrews from
Israel?

GATEKEEPER -- That includes ALL nations in the Persian empire.

ESTHER -- Oh, dear. This is terrible!

MORDECAI -- I'm not so sure, Hadassah.

ESTHER -- But the king is a gentile, Mordecai. The Lord doesn't
want us Hebrews to marry gentiles.

MORDECAI -- Maybe he does.

ESTHER -- Why? What reason could the Lord possibly have for
having a poor Hebrew girl like me marry a gentile?

MORDECAI -- I don't know. But this is no ordinary gentile,
Hadassah. He is the king of the largest empire in history. The
queen of Persia will have great influence. The Lord may be
putting you in this position to do good for your people.

ESTHER -- Very well. I shall submit to the Lord's will.

MORDECAI -- I'll miss you.

ESTHER -- Me too. (leans in to kiss)

MORDECAI -- Me too. (leans in to kiss, turns away suddenly)
You'd better go.

ESTHER -- Good bye, Cousin Mordecai. (turns toward palace)

MORDECAI -- Good bye, Hadassah. (turns, turns back) Oh.
Hadassah?

ESTHER -- (turns, smiles) Yes?

MORDECAI -- You shouldn't use your Hebrew name.

ESTHER -- I shouldn't?

MORDECAI -- No. Use your Babylonian name. Call yourself Esther.

ESTHER -- Esther?

MORDECAI -- Yes. And don't tell them that you're a Hebrew unless
they ask.

ESTHER -- Not unless they ask.

MORDECAI -- You should go now.

ESTHER -- Okay.

MORDECAI -- I'll miss you.

ESTHER -- Me too. (leans in to kiss)

MORDECAI -- Me too. (leans in to kiss, turns away suddenly)
You'd better go.

(Haman and Zarish reenter, lurk)

ESTHER -- Good bye, Cousin Mordecai. (turns, exits to  palace)

MORDECAI -- Good bye,... Esther. (backs toward exit) I'll be
here at the gate every day, just in case you need anything.

ZARISH -- (emerges pulling Haman like a dog on a leash) Haman,
darling.

HAMAN -- Yes, Zarish, darling?

ZARISH -- I want that girl dead.

HAMAN -- Excuse me?

ZARISH -- You heard me.

HAMAN -- But, Zarish, darling, we've already discussed this. As
chairman of the selection committee, I will make sure that she
doesn't make it to the finals.

ZARISH -- I don't care. That girl is too beautiful. I don't want
her to even get to the selection process. I want her to
disappear just like Queen Vashti. Do you understand?

HAMAN -- Just like Queen Vashti. (raises eyebrow to audience) I
understand. (exits to palace)

ZARISH -- (exiting opposite) Well, get going! The banquet is
tonight!

HAMAN -- (reenters with Esther, who is staggering) (if Esther is
light weight, carries her unconscious)

GATEKEEPER -- Oh, no! Haman, what have you done to Esther?!

HAMAN -- It was just a tap on the head.

GATEKEEPER -- What are you going to do with her?

HAMAN -- I will spare her life, just as I did the queen. But I
can't do it alone.

GATEKEEPER -- What do you want me to do?

HAMAN -- Select three of these tastelessly dressed foreigners to
help me on the selection committee. (descends to audience)

GATEKEEPER -- (descends to audience, points to three hefty men)
You, you and you. (beckons them) Come up here quickly. (pulls
volunteers from seats)

HAMAN -- Come now, or she gets it! (pushes Esther into one of
the chairs vacated by volunteers, ascends to stage, pulls dagger
from belt, points at audience) Not a word of this to anybody or
SHE gets it! Do you understand?!

GATEKEEPER -- (ascending to stage with volunteers) Not a word.
We understand.

HAMAN -- I thought you'd see it my way! (laughs fiendishly,
exits to palace with 3 men)


SCENE 6 Throne: Xerxes chooses Esther over Zarish. Zarish and
Haman plot to kill Xerxes, make Haman king.

(Crowd lines the route between gate and throne)

XERXES -- (seated) Have the virgins been evaluated by the
selection committee and the head of the department of sewers?

HAMAN -- (enters, crosses) We prefer to call it the department
of public works, Your Majesty.

XERXES -- Whatever.

HAMAN -- Yes, Your Majesty, of the hundreds of virgins sent to
the palace from throughout the empire, we eliminated all but the
fairest of the fair for your consideration.

XERXES -- Well, I doubt that any woman could be as beautiful as
my fair Queen Vashti, but send them in.

HAMAN -- Send in the virgins!

(Zarish and three male audience members in harem dresses or
bikini bras enter and cross to throne)

CROWD -- (gasp, gossip)

XERXES -- That's it?! That's the fairest of the fair?

HAMAN -- Yes, your majesty. The fairest of the fair. The best of
the best.

XERXES -- Maybe I'll just put off selecting a replacement for
Queen Vashti.

HAMAN -- I suppose you could, Your Majesty. But you've already
given your word. I suppose that if you want your whole empire to
know you're not a man of your word....

CROWD -- (gasp and gossip)

XERXES -- Alright, if I must, I must! Let's see.... (begins
inspecting virgins) Which one shall I choose?

ESTHER -- (ascends to stage staggering, holding back of head)
I'm sorry I'm late, Your Majesty. Somebody hit me over the head.

XERXES -- (points to Esther) She's the one! I choose her!

ZARISH -- Haman, do something!

HAMAN -- Your Majesty, you can't choose her!

XERXES -- Why not? She's a virgin, isn't she?

HAMAN -- Well, yes.

XERXES -- And she's incredibly beautiful. In fact, she's even
more beautiful than Queen Vashti. Good idea, Haman!

HAMAN -- Good idea, Your Majesty?

XERXES -- Yes, this was a good idea, choosing a new queen! Isn't
she gorgeous?!

ZARISH -- Haman!

HAMAN -- Since Your Majesty is so pleased with my work, could we
talk about a promotion?

ZARISH -- A promotion?! What about ME!?

XERXES -- (to Esther) What's your name, girl?

ESTHER -- Ha... Esther. My name is Esther.

XERXES -- Esther. A beautiful name for a beautiful Queen.
(extends hand) Come, Esther, let us parade through the streets
and show everyone what a beautiful Queen I have chosen. (exits
with Esther)

GATEKEEPER -- (pounds spear three times) All hale Queen Esther!

CROWD -- (follows Xerxes and Esther) Hazah! Hazah.... (escort
audience members to seats)

HAMAN -- (follows) My promotion, Your Majesty?! My promotion.

ZARISH -- (grabs Haman's arm, spins him around) You incompetent
fool! I had the treasury of the Persian empire in my hands and
you let it slip away!

HAMAN -- I'm sorry! I...

ZARISH -- I told you to make her disappear!

HAMAN -- Well, I thought I did....

ZARISH -- ...You fool! You've ruined everything!

HAMAN -- Well, I thought she would be out cold until after the
ceremony.

ZARISH -- (paces) Of all the foolish, incompetent, imbecilic,
idiotic, moronic, immature... (stops nose to nose with Haman)
Darling, will you marry me?

HAMAN -- Excuse me?

ZARISH -- Marry me.

HAMAN -- I thought you were mad at me.

ZARISH -- That was three seconds ago. Life goes on. Marry me.

HAMAN -- What are you up to?

ZARISH -- When we kill Xerxes and you ascend the throne, I will
become the Queen of Persia!

HAMAN -- Hold on there. You lost me right after you said we
(shouts) were going to kill Xerxes?!

ZARISH -- (slaps hand over Haman's mouth) Shshsh. Not so loud.

HAMAN -- YOU're going to kill the king?

ZARISH -- WE are going to kill the king. And YOU will ascend the
throne. And YOU will become KING.

HAMAN -- No kidding!?

ZARISH -- We don't have a lot of time. Are you going to marry me
or not, my king?

HAMAN -- (brings Zarish's hand up and attempts to kiss it)
You're so romantic when you call me king.

ZARISH -- (pulls away, exits) As soon as you're on the throne,
I'll cook you dinner. (snears at audience)

HAMAN -- (follows) Dinner?! What is she talking about?


SCENE 7 Gate: Mordecai overhears Zarish pay Gatekeeper to kill
Xerxes. Haman overhears Mordecai threaten to expose the plot.

ZARISH -- (enters from palace) How would you like to earn a
little money, darling?

GATEKEEPER -- I'm already earning a LITTLE money. This is a
minimum-wage job.

ZARISH -- (dangles pouch of coins like bate) Then, how would you
like to earn a little bit more money.

GATEKEEPER -- How much more?

ZARISH -- There are 20 drachmas in this bag. And there will be
another 200 drachmas after the job is done.

GATEKEEPER -- (shouts) TWO HUNDRED DRACHMAS?!

ZARISH -- (holds finger to Gatekeeper's lips, looks around)
Shshshsh! Not so loud darling.

MORDECAI -- (enters unseen, lurks)

GATEKEEPER -- 200 drachmas is a lot of gold! What do I have to
do to earn all that gold?

ZARISH -- Kill King Xerxes.

GATEKEEPER -- (obviously nauseated) I think I'm going to be
sick.

ZARISH -- What's the matter, darling?!

GATEKEEPER -- I get nauseated when I even think about killing
someone. The only time I ever killed anyone, I vomited for two
hours and I couldn't sleep for three days. I'm sorry, but you'll
have to find someone else. (holds forehead) I think I need a
doctor.

ZARISH -- Very well, then, darling. We'll just change the plans
slightly.

GATEKEEPER -- Slightly. How slightly? Are sharp objects
involved?

ZARISH -- No, darling. No sharp objects. You'll never see any
blood.

HAMAN -- (enters from palace unseen, lurks)

GATEKEEPER -- What do I have to do?

ZARISH -- I'll hire two of these tastelessly dressed foreigners
to do the dirty deed. All you'll have to do is leave the throne
room unguarded when King Xerxes is in there alone.

GATEKEEPER -- That's it? I just walk away?

ZARISH -- Yes, and by the time you come back to your post, we'll
have the blood all cleaned up.

GATEKEEPER -- (nauseated) Now you've done it! You said that
word.

ZARISH -- What word? Blood?

GATEKEEPER -- (nauseated) Stop saying that! (holds head) I need
to see a doctor. I don't think I can go through with this!

ZARISH -- (dangles pouch) 200 drachmas....

GATEKEEPER -- (reaching for pouch) 200 drachmas?

ZARISH -- (keeps pouch out of reach) ...IF you do your job.

GATEKEEPER -- Alright. I'll do it. I'll think happy thoughts.

ZARISH -- (hands over pouch) Then we have a deal?

GATEKEEPER -- (jiggles coins near ear) Imagine getting paid more
for not doing my job than for doing it!

ZARISH -- (descends to audience, points to two men or boys) You
and you. Come with me. (pulls them out of their seats) Be quick
about it! (ascends to stage with men) If you follow orders, you
could make a lot of money. (to Gatekeeper, exiting with 2
audience members) As soon as I get these assassins into position
for the dirty deed, I will signal you.

GATEKEEPER -- (jiggling pouch near ear) You just say the word
and I'm out of here.

MORDECAI -- (approaches Gatekeeper cautiously) Where did you get
the money?

GATEKEEPER -- (hides pouch) Money? What money?

MORDECAI -- I just saw you taking money from that woman.

GATEKEEPER -- (holds up pouch longingly) Oh, rats! Does this
mean I have to give the money back?

MORDECAI -- More than that. This means that you have to inform
King Xerxes that there's a plot against his life.

GATEKEEPER -- Me? Why me? That woman is ruthless! If she finds
out that I double-crossed her, she'll... she'll... (nauseated) I
think I need to see a doctor. (attempts to exit)

MORDECAI -- Maybe I'll go in and tell the king what I know.

GATEKEEPER -- (turns, panicked) You wouldn't! The king would
have my head separated from my body in two minutes!

MORDECAI -- Then do the right thing.

GATEKEEPER -- I can't. I'm dead either way.

MORDECAI -- You could tell the King that it was "I" who exposed
the murder plot.

GATEKEEPER -- Oh! Yeah! That could work! That way Zarish will
kill you instead of me!

GATEKEEPER -- (exiting to palace) I'll be brave. I'll blame you!

MORDECAI -- (to audience) It was the least I could do. (bows,
exits)

HAMAN -- (comes out of hiding, snears at audience) Ahah! This
turn of events my turn out even better than the murder plot. I
shall "capture" the treasonous assassins and turn them in for a
big reward, maybe even a promotion! (laughs) This way I get a
promotion AND Zarish is left out in the cold. I never trusted
that woman anyway! (laughs fiendishly, exits to palace)


SCENE 8 Throne: Gatekeeper reports plot to Xerxes. Haman
"catches" would-be assassins. Xerxes names Haman prime minister.

XERXES -- (seated on the throne)

GATEKEEPER -- (enters hurriedly) Your Majesty, I come bearing an
urgent message. May I approach the throne?

XERXES -- You may approach.

GATEKEEPER -- (kneels at base of throne) Your Majesty, the
Hebrew who calls himself Mordecai has uncovered a murder plot
against your life.

XERXES -- A murder plot?! Against MY life?!

HAMAN -- (enters with two audience members at sword-point) Ahah!
I caught them!

XERXES -- Haman, why are those tastelessly dressed foreigners in
MY throne room?

HAMAN -- These foreigners have plotted murder against the great
King Xerxes.

GATEKEEPER -- See?! I told you! Ah. I mean, Mordecai told you.
Mordecai, the Hebrew. Not me. Mordecai, just in case anybody
wants to know. His name is spelled M. O. R. D....

XERXES -- Well done, Haman!

GATEKEEPER -- No. It was Mordecai. Mordecai the Hebrew. His name
is spelled M. O. R. D....

HAMAN -- I'm just a dedicated public servant doing my job, Your
Majesty.

XERXES -- Well, your dedication will not go unrewarded, my good
man! YOU shall be my new prime minister!

HAMAN -- Oh, what an unexpected pleasure! (raises eye brows to
audience, kneels before Xerxes) I shall serve you with loyalty
and fervor, Your Majesty.

XERXES -- Whatever. You may go.

HAMAN -- (stands, backs to exit) Your humble servant departs,
Your Majesty.

GATEKEEPER -- What shall we do with these assassins, Your
Majesty?

XERXES -- Oh, them? Kill them! Run them through with your spear.

GATEKEEPER -- (nauseated, bows) Yes, Your Majesty. (points spear
at two audience members) Alright, you two, outside! (motions to
exit) I'm going to run you through with my spear. Then you'll be
sorry. (when out of sight, ushers them back to their seats)
Alright, listen, you two... All of you! I could kill you just
like that... (tries unsuccessfully to snap fingers) ...just like
that... (tries unsuccessfully to snap fingers) Well, you know
what I mean. I'm a trained killer, see. And you should be dead
now. But if you just sit here out of sight and keep your mouths
shut, I'll spare your lives. (ascends to stage) But if the king
finds out... (slits own throat with finger, nauseated) I...
(exiting) excuse me, I think I'm going to be sick!


SCENE 9 Gate: Haman exalts self. Mordecai refuses to bow down to
Haman. Haman and Zarish plot Mordecai's murder.

ZARISH -- (enters, snears at audience) Just you wait. When I
become queen, I will have all of you foreigners shipped off to
hard labor in the salt mines. (laughs, approaches Gatekeeper,
points over shoulder to exit) Alright, darling, the assassins
are standing by, waiting for my signal. Is King Xerxes alone?
(points to palace)

GATEKEEPER -- (feeling own forehead) There's been a slight
change of plans.

ZARISH -- What do you mean, there's been a slight change of
plans?! (grabs Gatekeeper's clothes)

GATEKEEPER -- Someone... somehow... found out about the
assassination plot and reported it to King Xerxes.

ZARISH -- What?!

GATEKEEPER -- I had nothing to do with it.

ZARISH -- (points at Gatekeeper's nose) Then, how did the king
find out about it?

GATEKEEPER -- I... I don't know. All I know is that as soon as
King Xerxes found out about it, Haman captured the two
foreigners responsible and...

ZARISH -- That's impossible! Haman was in league with me. Say,
what's going on here?

GATEKEEPER -- It wasn't me! It was Mordecai. Mordecai the
Hebrew. His name is spelled M. O. R. D. E....

ZARISH -- (to audience) Mordecai! I hate Mordecai! I hate
Hebrews! I hate all foreigners!

GATEKEEPER -- Speak of the devil.

ZARISH -- Huh? (hides)

GATEKEEPER -- Here comes Mordecai now. (pounds spear three
times) Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, announcing the man who
uncovered the assassination plot and saved King Xerxes!

CROWD -- (enters, lines the route to the gate, applauds)

MORDECAI -- (enters, bows, acknowledge applause) Thank you.
You're too kind. No applause, please. Virtue is it's own reward.
(crosses to Gatekeeper) Gatekeeper, have you heard anything from
my cousin Esther?

GATEKEEPER -- Only that she married King Xerxes. He seems to be
very happy with her.

MORDECAI -- Yes, but, I wonder if she's happy with him.

HAMAN -- (enters from palace, swishing cape) Announce me,
Gatekeeper!

GATEKEEPER -- Announce you?

HAMAN -- Yes, as you well know, when I single-handedly captured
the would be assassins of King Xerxes, he rewarded me by making
me prime minister. It was completely unexpected! (laughs
fiendishly)

ZARISH -- (to audience) Why that dirty, low down, double
crosser, thinks he can cut me out of the deal! (hides)

HAMAN -- Did somebody say something?

GATEKEEPER -- I didn't hear anything.

HAMAN -- No matter. Announce me, Gatekeeper.

GATEKEEPER -- (pounds spear three times) Hear ye, hear ye, hear
ye, the head of the sewer department has come out of the
sewer...

HAMAN -- ...Just announce my new title.

GATEKEEPER -- Announcing the newly appointed prime minister of
Persia, Haman.

CROWD -- (gossip)

HAMAN -- You may all bow before me.

CROWD -- (gossip)

HAMAN -- (shouts) I said bow before your new prime minister!

CROWD -- (gossip)

HAMAN -- (shouts) I said bow!

CROWD -- (all quiet, bow in a wave in sequence toward Mordecai)

MORDECAI -- (remains standing)

HAMAN -- (shouts) I said bow, Hebrew!

MORDECAI -- I'm sorry, Mr Prime Minister, but my God the God of
Israel forbids us Hebrews from bowing before anyone but the
king.

CROWD -- (gasp)

HAMAN -- You will make an exception in my case. BOW!

MORDECAI -- I'm sorry. I cannot. (exits)

CROWD -- (gasp)

HAMAN -- (wisks hand) Get out of here, all of you! Out!

CROWD -- (exits bowing and gossiping)

HAMAN -- (paces) Who does that Hebrew think he is?! I am now the
most powerful man in Persia. I'm not someone to be trifled with!
I'll have his head for this!

GATEKEEPER -- I'm afraid that won't be possible.

HAMAN -- Quiet! I didn't ask you to speak!

GATEKEEPER -- Sorry.

HAMAN -- What do you mean that won't be possible? (pause) Well?
Why aren't you answering me?!

GATEKEEPER -- You didn't ask me to speak.

HAMAN -- (shouts) I'm asking you now! Speak!

GATEKEEPER -- (rattled) You don't have to shout. I'm standing
right here.

HAMAN -- (shouts) Answer the question, you nitwit!

GATEKEEPER -- Could you repeat the question?

HAMAN -- What do you mean that won't be possible?

GATEKEEPER -- Oh, yes, I remember now. You see, it was Mordecai
who uncovered the assassination attempt and saved the King's
life. There's no way the king would let you harm the man who
saved his life.

HAMAN -- Curses! Foiled again! I hate that Mordecai! I hate all
those Hebrews! (to audience) I hate all you foreigners!

ZARISH -- Perhaps I can help, darling.

HAMAN -- I'm sure you want to help me after I became prime
minister without marrying you.

ZARISH -- I didn't say I would help you without some
compensation, darling.

HAMAN -- Alright. What do you want?

ZARISH -- Marry me.

HAMAN -- I don't know. I've heard rumors about what happened to
your previous husbands.

ZARISH -- You can't believe rumors, darling. Marry me. Then,
I'll help you put Mordecai in his place.

HAMAN -- Alright, I'll marry you. I need to be married anyway.
Every prime minister must have a wife at his side. Now, just
what did you have in mind to put Mordecai in his grave?

ZARISH -- You will use your new power as prime minister to quell
an uprising.

HAMAN -- An uprising? I didn't know there was an uprising.

ZARISH -- (smirks)

HAMAN -- Oh, an uprising! Please, continue.

ZARISH -- You tell the king that a certain group of foreigners
is causing trouble, that the assassination attempt was just part
of a large uprising by the foreigners. He'll immediately think
of these tastelessly dressed foreigners, whom he once ordered
put to death.

HAMAN -- Yes. Yes, I get it now. But I'll write the death
warrant to wipe out all Hebrews throughout the empire, INCLUDING
a certain ring leader named...

BOTH -- Mordecai.

HAMAN -- I like it! I like it a lot! I may wipe out these
(points) tastelessly dressed foreigners too, in the name of good
taste.

BOTH -- (exit laughing fiendishly)


SCENE 10 Throne: Haman receives permission to kill all Jews.
Esther reminds Xerxes Mordecai foiled a murder plot. Xerxes
commands Haman to give Mordecai hero's welcome.

CROWD -- (assemble along the route between exit and throne)

GATEKEEPER -- (pounds spear three times) Hear ye, hear ye, hear
ye, King Xerxes and his new bride, Queen Esther.

CROWD -- Hazah, hazah. (bow as Xerxes passes)

XERXES -- (enters with Esther on his arm, nods to all who bow,
looks disturbed at audience, ascends throne) Some of the
tastelessly dressed foreigners didn't say hazah. Would you like
to watch while I have them beheaded, my queen?

ESTHER -- Please have patience with them, Your Majesty. They
don't mean to be disrespectful. They are merely stupid.

XERXES -- Yes, yes, of course, my dear.

GATEKEEPER -- (pounds spear three times) Hear ye, hear ye, hear
ye, the prime minister of Persia, the honorable Haman.

CROWD -- (gossip)

HAMAN -- (enters, growls, points at Crowd)

CROWD -- (bow)

HAMAN -- (crossing to throne) Your Majesty, I have a matter of
great urgency.

XERXES -- What is it, Prime Minister Haman?

HAMAN -- There has been an uprising, Your Majesty.

XERXES -- That's odd. I just spoke with my military advisors.
They said nothing about any unrest.

HAMAN -- This plot is insidious, Your Majesty. Apparently, the
two ruthless thugs who made an attempt on your life were part of
a larger more widespread, yet secretive plot.

XERXES -- What were you proposing to do about it, Mister Prime
Minister?

HAMAN -- (extends scroll) I have written an order to excise the
cancer, Your Majesty.

XERXES -- Excise the cancer?

HAMAN -- A surgical military strike to wipe them all out on a
single day. (escalates) Blot them out. Snuff them.
(demonstrates) Grind them under our feet. (wrings scroll with
hands like wringing the neck of a bird) Wring their scrawny
little necks. Feed their carcasses to the birds....

XERXES -- I get the picture, Haman. Just which group of
foreigners are we talking about here? May I assume it's the
tastelessly dressed foreigners with which I have had problems
before?

HAMAN -- Yes, Your Majesty. So, if you'll just seal this death
warrant with your signet ring, I'll take care of this uprising
forthwith. (offers scroll)

XERXES -- (presses ring to scroll) Done.

HAMAN -- Thank you, Your Majesty. (snears at audience, turns,
crosses slowly toward exit)

CROWD -- (bows in sequence)

ESTHER -- Speaking of the attempt on your life, Your Majesty.

XERXES -- Yes, my dear?

ESTHER -- You still have not given public recognition to the man
who saved your life.

HAMAN -- (stops, turns to audience, freezes, smiles broadly,
primps)

XERXES -- How thoughtless. I'd forgotten all about it. (shouts)
Haman?

HAMAN -- Yes, Your Majesty?

XERXES -- What is the proper reward for someone who saves a
king's life.

HAMAN -- Oh, I would think a hero's welcome would be in order,
Your Majesty. A parade. Yes, a parade. And banners. And perhaps
the hero could ride on Your Majesty's favorite horse, while
hundreds of thousands of people shout his name.

XERXES -- Splendid! Gatekeeper, bring in Mordecai.

GATEKEEPER -- (exits) Yes, Your Majesty.

HAMAN -- (smile melts into anger) Mordecai?!

XERXES -- Yes, Haman. It was Mordecai who uncovered the plot to
assassinate me. And, since you are prime minister, you can lead
Mordecai's horse through the streets and sing his praises.

HAMAN -- I can what?!

GATEKEEPER -- (reenters, pounds spear three times) Hear ye, hear
ye, hear ye, the man who uncovered the plot to assassinate the
king, Mordecai the Hebrew.

MORDECAI -- (enters, crosses to throne, bows)

XERXES -- (descends with Esther) Behold! The hero of the empire!
All hale Mordecai!

CROWD -- All hale Mordecai.

XERXES -- Haman, you may lead the way! (pause) Well?! (follows)

HAMAN -- (half-hearted, exiting) All hale Mordecai.

CROWD -- (follows cheering) All hale Mordecai!


SCENE 11 Gate: Mordecai overhears plot to kill all Jews.
Mordecai talks Esther into using influence on Xerxes.

HAMAN -- (enters from palace angry, carrying scroll in belt, to
audience) I hate you foreigners. You're nothing but trouble.

ZARISH -- (enters opposite) What's the matter, darling?
(acknowledges audience boos) Oh, you just wait. Haman and I have
plans for you! (to Haman) Haman, darling, you got the king to
sign the death warrant, didn't you?

HAMAN -- (pulls scroll from belt, shows it) Yes. He signed it.

ZARISH -- Then, why so unhappy, darling?

HAMAN -- I can't believe you haven't heard by now.

MORDECAI -- (enters from palace unseen, lurks)

ZARISH -- Heard what, darling?

HAMAN -- King Xerxes made me give that Hebrew Mordecai a hero's
welcome.

ZARISH -- Mordecai?

HAMAN -- I don't even what to hear his name. That's all I've
heard all day. Wait a minute. I paraded him all over the city. I
can't believe you didn't see it. Where were you while I was
making a fool of myself?

ZARISH -- I was in the forest, (points) darling.

HAMAN -- In the forest?!

ZARISH -- Yes, darling.

HAMAN -- What were you doing in the forest?

ZARISH -- I was spending your money, darling.

HAMAN -- What were you spending my money on?

ZARISH -- Lumber, darling.

HAMAN -- Lumber?! Why do I need lumber?!

ZARISH -- To build a gallows, darling.

HAMAN -- A gallows?! (smiles) Oh, a gallows. (rubs hands) A
gallows. (laughs) Revenge is sweet. I shall hang the Hebrew
foreigner by his scrawny little neck. Great idea, my darling
Zarish.

ZARISH -- I thought you'd like it, darling. I bought enough
lumber for you to build a gallows seventy-five feet high.

HAMAN -- Splendid! Everyone in the city will be able to see my
final revenge! (hold scroll to face) By the time King Xerxes
finds out whose death warrant he signed, it'll be too late.
(laughs, dances with Zarish)

ZARISH -- (stops him) You'll have plenty of time to celebrate
later, darling. Right now, you have to serve that death warrant.

HAMAN -- You're right, my darling! I must make copies of this
death warrant and dispatch them to all parts of the empire so
that all the Hebrews can be wiped out in one fell (sweeps arms,
almost knocking Zarish off her feet) swoop! (laughs, kisses
scroll) I feel much better now.

ZARISH -- I'm glad you feel better, darling. Death always makes
me feel better.

HAMAN -- (exiting) Well, I'm off to serve the death warrant, my
darling.

ZARISH -- (follows) And I'm off to supervise the construction of
the gallows. (laughs fiendishly)

MORDECAI -- (comes out of hiding) Gatekeeper did you hear that?

GATEKEEPER -- I'm just a Gatekeeper. I never hear anything. If
you hear things, you get involved and I don't want to get
involved. So, I didn't hear anything. Not a thing. I don't know
anything about any gallows. (covers mouth)

MORDECAI -- Gatekeeper, when the king wanted to put you to death
with these tastelessly dressed foreigners, who saved your life?

GATEKEEPER -- You did.

MORDECAI -- And when you took money from that woman to abandon
your post, who kept your name out of the scandal?

GATEKEEPER -- You did. (cries) I don't want to get involved with
a hanging. It makes me nauseous to even think about people
hanging (pantamimes hanging self, nauseated).  See, now I'm
getting nauseated. I probably won't get a wink of sleep tonight
thanks to you.

MORDECAI -- You owe me.

GATEKEEPER -- Please don't get me involved! Please!

MORDECAI -- You owe me.

GATEKEEPER -- If I get involved, I could end up being hanged
right along side of you. (pantamimes hanging self, nauseated).
You know that gallows is seventy-five feet high. And I'm afraid
of heights! (eyes roll in head) I think I'm going to be sick.
Can you get me a doctor?

MORDECAI -- You owe me your life. Twice.

GATEKEEPER -- Alright, but if I die, I'll never speak to you
again. (deep breath, fans self with hand) What do you want me to
do?

MORDECAI -- You have access to every room in the palace. I want
you to get a message to my cousin Esther.

GATEKEEPER -- Oh, no you don't. King Xerxes is a very jealous
man. If he sees his wife with another man, he'll have my head.

MORDECAI -- Maybe I should tell the king who else was involved
in the assassination plot.

GATEKEEPER -- (nauseated, fans self) How did I get myself into
this mess? (deep breath) Alright. What do you want me to tell
her?

MORDECAI -- You need to tell her that every Hebrew in the empire
is going to be murdered unless she uses her influence on King
Xerxes to stop it.

GATEKEEPER -- That won't work.

MORDECAI -- What do you mean it won't work?

GATEKEEPER -- The king is on his throne all day.

MORDECAI -- What does that have to do with anything?

GATEKEEPER -- Well, if Queen Esther wants to influence the king
she'll have to go into the throne room while he's seated on the
throne.

MORDECAI -- What's wrong with that?

GATEKEEPER -- If a woman goes into the throne room uninvited
while the king is seated on the throne, protocol dictates that
the king must put her to death.

MORDECAI -- Oh, dear. (paces) What am I going to do?

GATEKEEPER -- I hate this job. All I ever hear about is death.
I've got to find another line of work.

MORDECAI -- You've got to give her the message anyway. She's our
only hope.

GATEKEEPER -- She has such a pretty neck. I'd hate to see it...
(slices own neck with finger)

MORDECAI -- (stops, snaps fingers) That's it!

GATEKEEPER -- What's it? You mean you WANT Esther to lose her
head?

MORDECAI -- No! This is why the Lord allowed her to marry a
gentile man!

GATEKEEPER -- So he can remove her head?

MORDECAI -- No. This is no ordinary gentile man! This is the
king. The Holy Scriptures tell us that the Lord has the heart of
the king in his hand. (holds out hand)

GATEKEEPER -- You mean, your God would RIP the king's heart
right out of his chest?! I think I'm going to be sick!

MORDECAI -- No. I mean that our God, the God of Israel will
control the king's heart. He'll change the king's mind and
prevent him from... from... (puts finger to own throat)

GATEKEEPER -- (exiting to palace) Don't say it. I don't want to
hear it. I'll go. I'll tell her.

MORDECAI -- (exiting opposite, looking up) Dear God, protect my
beloved Esther.


SCENE 12 Throne: Esther approaches throne, exposes Haman. Xerxes
hangs Haman on his own gallows. Mordecai expects death, becomes
prime minister. All Jews are saved. Celebration.

(men of Crowd holding currency, stand in semicircle around
throne)

XERXES -- (seated on throne, leans forward, shakes dice near
ear) Seven come eleven, come on, baby! (throws dice on floor)
Yeah! (groans) Snake eyes AGAIN?!

CROWD -- (cheer)

XERXES -- That's three times in a row! You guys are cleaning me
out!

ESTHER -- (enters meekly) I'm sorry to interrupt, Your Majesty.

XERXES -- (not looking up, throwing money at the feet of men)
Guard! There's a woman in the throne room while I'm seated on
the throne! Off with her head!

GATEKEEPER -- Now, you've done it Esther! You've ruined my day!
(grabs Esther's elbow)

XERXES -- (stands) Esther?!

ESTHER -- (runs to foot of throne, kneels) Oh, Your Majesty, you
may have my head. But hear my plea first!

XERXES -- Oh, Esther, I won't have your head. I love you.

ESTHER -- Please, Your Majesty, there's been a terrible
injustice!

XERXES -- Injustice?! In MY empire?! That's impossible! What
injustice?

ESTHER -- Your prime minister Haman had you seal a death
warrant.

XERXES -- (descends) Yes, I know. It was to quell an uprising.
Those people were responsible for an attempt on my life. Anyone
who would do that deserves to die.

MORDECAI -- (enters running, kneels next to Esther) No! Please!
She doesn't deserve to die! Please, Your Majesty, take my life,
not hers!

XERXES -- Mordecai!?

MORDECAI -- Please, Your Majesty, spare her life!

XERXES -- I'm not going to take Esther's life!

MORDECAI -- You're not?

XERXES -- No! I love Esther.

MORDECAI -- I'm such a fool. I should have trusted the Lord!

XERXES -- (lifts Esther to her feet, blocking the audience view
of Mordecai) What's going on here, my queen?!

HAMAN -- (enters with Zarish, smiling broadly)

CROWD -- (remaining crowd members follow)

ESTHER -- The gatekeeper told me that Prime Minister Haman is
building a seventy-five foot gallows to hang his enemies.

XERXES -- Is that true, Haman?

HAMAN -- Yes, it is, Your Majesty. (bows) My wife and I had the
gallows built especially high so that everyone in the city can
see justice being done. We came here to invite you to witness
the hangings.

XERXES -- Esther, here, seems to think that you might be hanging
the wrong people, Haman.

HAMAN -- Preposterous! Those foreigners are responsible for all
the trouble around here. They tried to assassinate you.

ESTHER -- But the death warrant is against the Hebrews!

XERXES -- Is that true, Haman?

HAMAN -- Well, yes, but...

XERXES -- You told me that it was those tastelessly dressed
foreigners (points) who were responsible for the assassination
attempt, Haman.

HAMAN -- Um. Yes. I can explain that....

XERXES -- What do they have to do with the Hebrews?

MORDECAI -- (stands, reveals self) This has nothing to do with
the assassination attempt, Your Majesty.

ZARISH -- (hides behind Haman) Oh oh.

XERXES -- It doesn't?

ZARISH -- We should go, darling. (pulls on Haman's elbow)

MORDECAI -- Haman wants to murder all the Hebrews in the empire
because our God, the God of Israel, doesn't allow us to bow down
to him.

XERXES -- Bow down to Haman?

HAMAN -- Well, if they're very disrespectful....

XERXES -- Because they won't bow down to you?

HAMAN -- Well, everyone else does.

XERXES -- My people have never bowed down to the prime minister!

HAMAN -- They haven't? Silly me. What a mistake?

XERXES -- You were going to wipe out the Hebrews just for that?

HAMAN -- Well, don't forget the assassination.

ZARISH -- We should go, darling. We can talk about this later.
(pulls at Haman's elbow)

MORDECAI -- Hey, that voice sounds familiar. (crosses to Zarish)
Yes. This is the woman I saw plotting the assassination. And
she's the one I saw plotting with Haman to murder all Hebrews in
the empire.

ZARISH -- You're obviously mistaken, darling. Let's go, darling.
(pulls at Haman's elbow)

HAMAN -- What about my revenge?!

ZARISH -- (forced smile) Not now, darling!

XERXES -- Yes, now! Let's talk about the assassination attempt.

ZARISH -- (forced laugh) Mistaken identity. We should go. (pulls
at Haman's elbow)

XERXES -- Wait a minute. Were the Hebrews involved in the
assassination attempt or not?

HAMAN & ZARISH -- Yes.
MORDECAI & ESTHER -- No.

XERXES -- Well, which is it?

ESTHER -- It was Mordecai who reported the assassination plot.

HAMAN -- Mordecai planned the assassination and when he saw that
his plan had failed, he tried to play the big hero.

XERXES -- Is that true Mordecai?

MORDECAI -- No, but if Haman is in league with that woman, then
it was HE whose assassination attempt failed.

XERXES -- Perhaps I'll just execute all of you.

ESTHER -- No! Not Mordecai!

XERXES -- Esther! Do you know this man?

MORDECAI -- Esther, please don't...

CROWD -- (speculate)

XERXES -- Wait a minute! What's going on here?!

MORDECAI -- Esther, for your own sake, please don't say
anything.

ESTHER -- Mordecai is my cousin!

CROWD -- (gasp)

XERXES -- Your cousin?! That means YOU are a Hebrew too?!

ESTHER -- Yes!

MORDECAI -- Oh, Esther!

ESTHER -- Mordecai's family raised me since I was a little girl.
I owe him my life!

HAMAN -- Ahah! She's part of the assassination plot!

XERXES -- Esther, I thought I knew you better than that.

ESTHER -- (kneels) I swear to you, Your Majesty, neither I nor
my cousin had anything to do with the assassination plot.

HAMAN -- I never liked that girl.

XERXES -- Esther, I'm sorry, but a king cannot live in doubt of
those in his own palace. Gatekeeper, arrest these people.

MORDECAI -- Wait! If anybody in this palace knows the truth,
it's the gatekeeper.

XERXES -- Well, Gatekeeper, what do you have to say?

GATEKEEPER -- (looks at wrist) Will you look at the time?! It's
time for my lunch break. (turns)

XERXES -- Freeze, Gatekeeper.

GATEKEEPER -- (not turning) I'm sorry, I don't know anything
about anything. And I'm really getting hungry.

MORDECAI -- Gatekeeper, you owe me.

GATEKEEPER -- (turns) Oh, Alright. I'll...

ZARISH -- (holds out pouch of money, jingles coins)

GATEKEEPER -- I'll... What was I talking about again?

MORDECAI -- You were about to become a man of principle.

GATEKEEPER -- (pushes pouch away) You're right. I must speak up.
If I stay silent a true national hero will be hanged. Your
Majesty, it was Haman and Zarish who plotted to kill you.

CROWD -- (gasp)

GATEKEEPER -- They also plotted to murder all the Hebrews in the
empire because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman.

CROWD -- (gasp)

XERXES -- Then, they shall hang on their own gallows. Seize
them!

HAMAN & ZARISH -- Curses, foiled again. (try to escape)

CROWD -- (block exit, cheer)

XERXES -- And I hereby order that the death warrant against the
Hebrews be rescinded.

CROWD -- (cheer)

GATEKEEPER -- I almost hate to ask, but... what about me?

XERXES -- You get to preside at their hangings.

GATEKEEPER -- (shepherds Haman and Zarish to exit with spear)
Sure. I knew it. More blood and guts. I'll vomit for two hours
and I won't be able to sleep for three days.

XERXES -- Well, it looks like Mordecai is a true hero after all.

ESTHER -- My hero!

XERXES -- Well, it looks like the position of prime minister
just opened up. Are you interested, Mordecai?

MORDECAI -- You want ME to be prime minister?!

XERXES -- Yes!

CROWD -- (cheer)

MORDECAI -- (to all) Ladies and Gentlemen, with the king's
permission, my first act as prime minister will be to enact an
annual observance among the Hebrews to celebrate the day our
great Queen Esther risked her life to save her people from
certain death. And to celebrate our Lord's great mercy to us
all. We shall call the celebration Purim (pronounced POO REEM).

XERXES -- Let it be done. Let's celebrate!

ALL -- (exit triumphantly)

(sound cue: fanfare)
2013 Bob Snook. Conditions for use:
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