Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Wine Critics in Hell Act 8
ACTS 1-7 ARE HERE
Everyone’s starting to feel a little cooped up here in Hell, which turns out to be a Natural Wine bar somewhere in Lodi. If there’s a somewhere in Lodi. Weary of the first seven acts of the play, and aren’t we all?, the wine critics are scattered about the bar sitting quietly, seemingly contemplating their horrible fate. As it turns out, Act 8 is part of that horrible fate… It’s the Stranger who breaks the silence.
Stranger: (standing up from the table where he’s been playing with his Tarot cards) I thought it would be a lot more fun to be in a bar with six famous wine critics. Instead, it’s like “The View,” only everybody’s Whoopi. It’s like talking to the starting lineup of the NHL’s All Head Trauma Team. I brought you all here not just because you deserve it, but because I thought I might enjoy your company. I don’t know what I was thinking.
Galloni: Sorry to disappoint. I’m happy to take my Vinous elsewhere.
Stranger: I thought you learned this already, Antonio. Nobody gets to leave this room, not ever. There is no elsewhere. I can leave, and I’m sure I will soon the way this play is going, but the rest of you…well, you’re my little repertory company. So you know, this is just the rehearsal. It’s going to get a lot better.
Kramer: What do you mean, “I brought you all here?” Who are you? I keep thinking I’m just dreaming and I’m going to wake up any minute now.
Stranger: Oh, you’re sort of dreaming, Matt. But you’re as awake as you’re going to get. (He pauses and looks around at all the critics.) It doesn’t matter who I am. Everyone I meet sees me as someone, or something, different. In here, I don’t know, maybe think of me as the Wine Buying Public. The Wine Buying Public getting its Day of Reckoning.
Suckling: So you’re like a blogger?
(The Bartender loudly slams a baseball bat against the bar. Everyone but the Stranger is startled.)
Laube: Fuck, I wet myself again.
Feiring: (she holds up her wine glass) Oh, I thought that was this Vin Jaune I was drinking.
Stranger: (angrily) I’m not like a blogger, James. Be careful about insulting me. The Bartender is very protective of me. Wine bloggers are fools. They have no power, no clout. Tell me, honestly, what’s the difference between a dick and wine blogger?
Suckling: Beats me.
Stranger: Not much. Only a dick has a mind of its own. (Laube laughs a little too much.)
Parker: So, Stranger, we’re here, and we’re here for eternity, according to you, but what’s the point?
Stranger: Now there’s irony. Parker asking me about points. What if there isn’t a point? Oh, then it could be like an Alice Feiring wine review—not just without points, but naturally pointless. There doesn’t have to be a point to all this, Bob. Who says there has to be a point? Every wine critic’s life is either a comedy or a tragedy. But it doesn’t necessarily have a point. I think you’d all agree with that.
Parker: So which was my life, Oh Great and Powerful Oz? Comedy or tragedy?
Stranger: (after a long pause) I’m glad you asked me that, Bob. That’s an interesting question. And it gets to the very heart of why we’re all here—here in this God-forsaken natural wine bar. (Looking around.) You know, I really could have done better. Oh well. It’s a question each of you has to answer for himself, or, dear Alice, herself. Was your life, in particular, your life as a wine critic, a comedy or a tragedy?
(No one is looking very eager to participate in the discussion. Introspection isn’t on the list of qualifications for being a wine critic. In fact, it’s a significant handicap.)
Stranger: Nobody? (He walks back to his Tarot cards, which are laid out on the table.) Maybe think of your life as one of these Tarot cards. (He holds one up.) Look at it right side up, and it means one thing. Turn it upside down, it means something else entirely. (He holds up the card for everyone to see.) Comedy. (He turns it upside down.) Tragedy. Or (he tosses the card as far as he can), perhaps, worthless.
(The door to the bar opens and a young woman walks in. She looks utterly lost. She’s very pretty, well-groomed, and openly surprised to be in a strange bar with a bunch of old people.)
Woman: Oh. Hi. You’re all staring at me. I’m kinda lost. I was just looking for a glass of wine.
Bartender: (as he speaks, and he speaks loudly, everyone is astonished that he is able to) You got any ID?
Woman: Why, yes, I do. (She takes her driver’s license out of her purse, walks over to the bar and hands it to the Bartender.) I’m 25.
Stranger: We’ve been expecting you! Welcome. Allow me to introduce you to this marvelous cast of characters. (One by one, he introduces the wine critics to the woman.) This is Robert Parker. The gentleman with the wet trousers at the bar is James Laube. That’s Alice Feiring. The guy salivating is James Suckling. Matt Kramer is off by himself in the corner—you get used to it. And, finally, that’s Antonio Galloni.
Woman: Nice to meet all of you.
Stranger: Anyone’s name ring a bell?
Woman: No. I don’t think so. Should I know any of you?
Laube: Oh, Jeez. Fucking Millennial.