These three gentle one-act comedies raise a question suggested by Robert Frost himself: Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, a question that hints at issues of knowledge, self-recognition, bias or prejudice—or even, these days, politics.
Robert Frost is an inspiration in many ways for those who love poetry, imagination, thoughtfulness. His poem Mending Wall evokes “walling in or walling out” – the action of excluding or including even when we know not precisely just what. Or, if we do know, just why. Fear, perhaps.
The play A Stone Wall tells of Wilford, 50, who has moved from New York City to a farm in Vermont where he encounters very unique neighbors, Mila, 40, and her son, Klig, 15. While mending the stonewall separating their farms, Wilford is suddenly surprised: Mila and Klig are from another planet. Will he keep the wall up? Or continue to take it down as Mila hopes.
The second play of this trilogy, Two Roads Diverge, dramatizes the Frostian theme: I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference, as Wilford meets Mila at the wall again, this time for a picnic and lessons on language, ideas, communication. Rather than fear and shy away from these “alien” neighbors, Wilford is warming to them considerably. He is fascinated by them; he feels protective and caring.
The third play, Promises to Keep, brings Wilford to the moment when Mila and Klig say and sing “goodbye” as Mila’s husband, Kulerie Klee, has returned to lead his family back into space. What will Wilford now do with the wall, build it up, leave it as is, or tear it down, after all he has experienced both of himself and of Mila, Klig and Kulerie Klee?
BEFORE I BUILT A WALL I’D ASK TO KNOW
WHAT I WAS WALLING IN OR WALLING OUT
ROBERT FROST, MENDING WALL
TWO ROADS DIVERGES IN A WOOD, AND I –
I TOOK THE ONE LESS TRAVELED BY,
AND THAT HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
ROBERT FROST, THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
BUT I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP,
AND MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP.
AND MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP
ROBERT FROST, STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING
From the Play
WILFORD – 50.
MILA – 40
KLIG – 15, Mila’s son.
LIGHTS UP: early May. At a stone wall in a field. Here-and-there fallen stones lie on the ground. WILFORD stands on one side of the wall, MILA—who wears an ill-fitting bonnet—stands across on the other side. She is staring at the sky overhead. Wilford stares at Mila then, looking up, stretches his arms exuberantly to the sky:
WILFORD: Ahhhh, uummph, ahhhh … so . . . this . . . this . . . is dawn . . . in Vermont. Ahhhh, uummph, ahhhh . . . (lowers his arms, looks at her) . . . Perfect. Serene. Metaphysical! The sky is a painting, meant for a gallery—is that what you see?
MILA: (she points to somewhere in the sky) Kulerie Klee . . . Kulerie Klee . . .
WILFORD: (looking up) Excuse me?
MILA: (still looking and pointing skyward) Good morning, good morning.
WILFORD: (to Mila) Good morning . . . yes, good morning.
MILA: (still looking and pointing skyward) Good morning, Kulerie Klee.
WILFORD: (to Mila) Well . . . good morning, Kulerie Klee.
MILA: (lowers her arm; to Wilford) So unexpected, that we landed here.
WILFORD: Well, life, the turns in life . . . ha ha . . . me, from New York city to a farm in Vermont . . . overnight . . . practically overnight, it seems. . . ha ha . . .so unexpected, so amazing.
MILA: And your farm has been vacant a hundred years! We on our side have had no one to talk to.
WILFORD: Ah, well, good morning. I’m Wilford.
MILA: I’m Mila.
WILFORD: And . . . (looking skyward) . . . Kulerie Klee . . . is that a bird?
MILA: (looking skyward) No, my husband.
WILFORD: Husband . . . (looks skyward) . . . ah.
MILA: (searching skyward) He’s lost.
WILFORD: I’m sorry.
MILA: Me, too. It’s been hard. No one to talk to, no one to love, except Klig.
MILA: Our son.
WILFORD: Ah. Well. I think I understand. You see, when Carla left me . . . crushed me . . .
it was like death . . . I needed to leave, quite sudden, quite impulsive, I read the ad in the newspaper, an “abandoned” farm in Vermont, and of course the word “abandoned” struck a chord with me . . . and . . . so . . . well—suddenly—so it seems, here I am, finding myself at dawn, amid the merry month of May. . . ha ha . . .at my stone wall, on my farm in Vermont, across from my neighbor, a complete stranger to me, a beautiful woman,
a widow . . . a mother . . . radiant in the rising sun . . . and I say: hail to life . . . hail . . .
hail to new beginnings!
MILA: (A moment, then): Not your wall, our wall.
WILFORD: Ah . . . ha ha . . . our wall. Well-well. Well, hail anyway.
MILA: My field extends so many perches north—this is the north field—ending one-foot under this wall—you and I share this wall, although your field—yours is your south field—
extends so many perches as to end only six-point-seven inches beneath this wall. I own
the most, you own the least. But . . . altogether . . . we share it, we have joint ownership.
WILFORD: Well. . .ha ha . . . hail new beginnings whatever!
MILA: I don’t fully understand walls . . . but . . . for whatever reason, we share one, Mr. Wilford.
WILFORD: Yes, apparently so, another unexpected turn, ha ha. And, by the way, Wilford is my first
name. My full name is Wilford Cranny. Have you ever read my novels?
MILA: My eyesight is poor . . . poor . . . Mr. Wilford.
WILFORD: Ah, well then . . . and it’s Wilford, but call me Will.
WILFORD: Yes. Simple. Will.
WILFORD: Good. And it was your note, then, I found—(he holds a piece of paper)—pinned to the sweet-cherry tree by my kitchen door, and, which says—(he reads): “Meet me at break of dawn at the stone wall at the far end of your south field, running sixty-seven-point-five rods from the oak tree at twenty-four-point six degrees east of my barn?”
MILA: (shyly) Yes. I apologize for my poor handwriting. I’m surprised you can read it.
WILFORD: Not a problem . . . it is indeed strange print, but . . . well it helped that Carla is a
doctor, and the messages she would leave me were . . . well . . . ha ha.
MILA: I’m afraid I don’t fully understand, but . . . so . . . we should begin. With the cool temperature. I get very sick in any heat.
WILFORD: Sure. Begin what?
MILA: Mending the wall.
WILFORD: Mending the wall?
MILA: You see what frost has done? Uplifted stones and toppled them? It’s an ugly wall.
WILFORD: Yes, yes it is. It is indeed an ugly wall.
MILA: Klig and I are tired of having to fix this wall year-after-year all by ourselves. So when I learned about you, I promised him that I would ask you to help me instead. Frankly,
we hate having to fix it. We are angry at frost.
WILFORD: Frost . . . well . . . ha ha . . . you’ve hit on a good theme, there.
MILA: I don’t understand.
WILFORD: Vermont, Frost, Robert Frost, and his poem Mending Wall. You see?
MILA: Well perhaps I should, but I don’t.
WILFORD: Well . . . we don’t read anymore, that’s the problem . . . we don’t . . . oh, ha, don’t get me started. Ha. Ha ha.
MILA: Excuse me?
WILFORD: I hate walls!
MILA: I hate frost!
WILFORD: (looks at her a moment, then) Excuse me?