Note: both actors claim to be Daniil Kharms, Russian author of children’s books and of absurdist literature, an author who died in 1942 in a Soviet prison in Stalingrad.
Note: There is spoken text for the 4 string players. If the performers decide that only the actors shall speak, an “alternate” text is given in the script. As well, if the performance is given in a concert version or with only minimal staging, there is “alternate” text to cover what would otherwise be physical action or staging.
Costumes and Property List (if there is staging):
2 identical Sherlock Holmes outfits: deerstalker cap, coat-cape, calabash pipe
1 Russian peasant woman outfit: skirt, peasant blouse, scarf (babushka), pince-nez
1 policeman’s outfit: helmet, jacket
1 “alluring woman” outfit: skirt and blouse or evening gown, and jewelry
1 “lady-like” outfit: skirt and blouse or woman’s suit
2 scholarly professor outfits: conservative jackets with leather elbow patches
1 “Bobrov” outfit: tight suit jacket and bow tie
1 male Russian peasant outfit: loose fitting peasant shirt and baggy pants
1 comb or Stalin type moustache
2 chairs, positioned at left and right sides of the string quartet
1 block of wood and 1 small table for chopping
1 small hatchet (preferably rubber)
a large, ancient-looking book
1 writing table and chair (armchair)
pen and paper
deck of cards
vodka bottle and glass
1 pistol with blanks (or slapstick for making off-stage gun shot sounds)
Daniil Kharms (Russian: Дании́л Ива́нович Хармс, 30 December 1905 – 2 February 1942) was an early Soviet-era surrealist and absurdist poet, writer and dramatist. He came to be known for his children's literature. His "adult" works were not published during his lifetime with the sole exception of two early poems. His work was saved from the war by loyal friends and hidden until the 1960s when his children's writing became widely published and scholars began the job of recovering his manuscripts and publishing them in the west and in samizdat. Kharms was arrested in 1931 and forced to live in Kursk for most of a year. He was arrested as a member of "a group of anti-Soviet children's writers", and some of his works were used as an evidence. Soviet authorities, having become increasingly hostile toward the avant-garde in general, deemed Kharms' writing for children anti-Soviet because of its refusal to instill materialist and social Soviet values. Kharms was arrested on suspicion of treason in the summer of 1941. He was imprisoned in the psychiatric ward at Leningrad Prison No. 1. and died in his cell in February 1942 — most likely from starvation, as the Nazi blockade of Leningrad had already begun. His manuscripts were preserved by his sister and, most notably, by his friend Yakov Druskin, a music theorist and amateur theologist and philosopher, who dragged a suitcase full of Kharms's and Vvedensky's writings out of Kharms's apartment during the blockade of Leningrad and kept it hidden throughout difficult times.