From “La Duchesse de Langeais” in La Duchesse de Langeais & Other Plays, translated by John Van Burek and published by Talonbooks in 1976.
A “terrasse de café.” “La Duchesse de Langeais,” an aging queen about sixty years old, vacationing somewhere in the sunny climes, is seated in front of a half-empty bottle of scotch. She is already visibly under the weather.
The character, “la Duchesse de Langeais,” should be as effeminate as possible. No wiggle of the hips, wave of the hand or “wink perverse” should be spared. The caricature should be complete, perfect . . . and touching. “La Duchesse” often tries to speak à la française, but her “joual” origins always show through[...]
LA DUCHESSE [to herself]:
Darling, you’re so vulgar! If the vacationing CBC girls ever heard you! It’s a good thing they’re taking their “siestas,” hein? Why, the poor dears, they’d swoon on the spot if they heard you talk like that! Because, can you believe it, nowadays when they meet me, they’re ashamed!
Eh, oui! That’s what they told me, like this, with their lips all pinched and their pinkies in the air . . . They want nothing more to do with me if don’t clean up my act. “You call yourself ‘Duchesse,’ you should set a good example.” Aie, wow, hein? Nothing but . . . snotty ladies! Bloody bitches! I’d scratch their faces if I still had my nails! They make me sick, lying around on the beach, playing Madame . . . Like they were queens of the world . . . They’ve got about as much class as . . . And of course, they haven’t got two cents to rub together! Oh, I know them all, those CBC whores who come down here on vacation. Queers, tapettes, every one of them! Cocksuckers, all of them! The whole bloody gang! There are a few who try to be males, but they just look like constipated whores. It’s a long time since I’ve been fooled, hein? I can smell a queer a hundred miles away! That means I’ve always got a nose full, but that’s another story . . . Yesterday, my dear ladies, they were eating les fruits de mer, sprawled all over the beach, pinkies in the air, yeah, in the air, and they’d coo with pleasure and roll back their eyes everytime they’d pop a little fishie into their mouths . . . But back in Montréal, they’d die of fright if they saw a fly in their soup. Aie, wow, hein? I mean there’s ridiculous and ridiculous! No, that doesn’t work with me anymore. I wasn’t born yesterday and these “princesses” from Montréal, Canada, haven’t impressed me for a long time. Look, I’ve got forty years experience and a few thousand men up my ass, so I can afford to play “la Duchesse” . . . But them, they’re not even thirty years old and they want to play woman of the world. Between you and me, hein? . . . All they manage to look like is cheap little Jewish ladies coming out of the five and dime . . . Their petits bleached hairdos, their petits fingernails all filed, their petits bikinis transparent and their cute little petit walk . . . that they copied from me . . . Aie, wow, hein? Grow up a little first, sister, then come see your aunt. You can play the ingénue all you want, but not la femme du monde! If it’s lessons you want, I’ll give them to you, free of charge, but don’t try to pass for a pro. Not in front of me! . . . Tiens, my glass is empty. God, the way this stuff disappears! Maybe there are ghosts, eh?