“Arlecchino am Ravenous” by Ian Thal

Arlecchino: A poor servant having come from Bergamo, hungry and far from home. His emotions are almost protean, changing with every new situation, so much so that he can forget who he is and mistake himself for someone far more clever. He wears some variant of the traditional mask that was first documented in the 1500s and possesses the batacchio or slapstick. The batacchio is, in the hands of Arlecchino, an all purpose tool and should be seen as much an extension of Arlecchino’s imagination as mime skills are an extension of the actor’s.

The actor has license to add movements, sounds, and asides not already present in the text.


[Arlecchino falls to his knees, distraught.]

Ay yayay! Arelecchino am so hungry.

Stomach growls grrr grrr grrr so Arlecchino no can sleep.

[Addresses stomach. Miming all his threats.]

Stomach: Silencia! Or Arlecchino cut you open and rip you out––

[Cuts self open, using batacchio as a knife. Accidentally pulls out own heart, and menaces it with the batacchio.]

Lub-dub-lub-dub-lub-dub. You not stomach!

[Plays with the rhythms of the heartbeat. Either gives it to an audience member who catches Arlecchino’s attention, places back in chest, or discards.]

Arlecchino try again.

Stomach: Silencia! Or Arlecchino cut you open and rip you out–– [Accidentally removes a kidney.]

You not stomach! Oh, kidney fagioli. Arlecchino have two already! Arlecchino try again.

Stomach: Silencia! Or Arlecchino cut you open and rip you out––

[Arlecchino removes stomach, and proceeds to menace it, miming all it’s threats, using the batacchio where appropriate.]

––stuff you in meat grinder with salt, pepper, garlic… then Arlecchino pull out own intestines, stuff you inside, tie off ends like sausage, and cook sausage with onion! So no belly aching from you!

[Arlecchino’s rage again becomes desperation. Arlecchino observes a fly buzzing around him.]

Buzz! Is that a fly Arlecchino am seeing? Buzz! So hungry Arlecchino can eat a fly. Buzz!

[Arlecchino mimes pursuit of fly, ending in failure when he accidentally swats himself with the batacchio.]

So hungry Arlecchino can eat an elbow but Arlecchino no can fit elbow in mouth. So hungry Arlecchino can eat a foot…

[Becomes lost in a reverie, alternately miming and showing prurient interest in his own mime.]

Oh! Arlecchino see tastiest feet at grape harvest. The women put grapes in big wooden tubs, and take off their shoes so lucky Arlecchino can see women’s feet, and then women lift their skirts so lucky Arlecchino can see ankles and smooth plump calves and women climb into tubs and stomp-a-stomp-a-stomp-a-smoosh-smoosh, stomp-a-stomp-a-stomp-a-smoosh-smoosh, stomp-a- stomp-a-stomp-a-smoosh-smoosh grapes into vino! Oh! Arlecchino want to lick feet sweet with juice and grapes smooshed between toes!

[Arlecchino observes one of his own feet.]

Oh what is that? A FOOT!

[Foot slowly backs away from Arlecchino.]

Buon giorno! Signor Foot!

[Bows to foot. Arlecchino coaxes foot closer.]

Come here! Arlecchino am friend! Come here!

[Arlecchino takes foot into hand.]

Is foot ticklish? [Tickles foot.] Si! Foot is ticklish. Let us play another game. You like this game. Arlecchino like this game. Game is five little piggies. How Arlecchino hunger for little piggies: the shank, the chops, the trotters, the tripe.

This little piggy go to market. Arlecchino no have scudi for market! This little piggy stay home. Arlecchino miss home in Bergamo!

This little piggy have roast beef. Naughty piggy no share roast beef with piggy brothers!

This little piggy have none. Just like Arlecchino!

[Arlecchino brings mouth closer to “piggies.”]

And this little fat, succulent piggy piggy cry wee wee wee wee…

[In swift movement, foot disappears from Arlecchino’s hand. He seeks the foot while the foot stays out of his view.]

Hey! Where do little piggies go!? Piggies? Piggies? Where are you? So hungry am Arlecchino.

Priest say: Arlecchino: God answers all prayers. So, Arlecchino will pray: [Kneels.]

Buon giorno! Maestro Deos, Papa in Paradiso! Arlecchino from Bergamo am your hungry servant! Arlecchino hear story: in Paradiso you have big feast and everyone has long spoons and they feed each other, because in Paradiso everyone loves everyone! But Deos has biggest spoon of all! And Arlecchino am so hungry, so what if when you are at table saying: [Portraying what Arlecchino imagines God to be like:] “Fiat antipasto! It is good! Fiat mozzarella! It is good! Fiat ravioli! It is good!”

You just put that long spoon in Arlecchino’s mouth, because priest say Maestro Deos love everyone, even Arlecchino from Bergamo! Grazie!

[Waits with mouth agape, expecting heavenly silverware that never reaches his lips.]

Hey!? What? Spoon not long enough? So priest say you have a boy, what his name? Giacamo? No. Giovanni? No.

Giuseppe! Si! Giuseppe Cristoforo! Priest tell Arlecchino that Giuseppe is best magician, but Giuseppe no do tricks with cards! No! Giuseppe do tricks with food!

Hey! No bread? What about fish trick? Hocus-pocus! Tah-dah! Fish! [Mimes fish with hand.] Two fish!

[Mimes a second fish with other hand. Bites hand.]

Aieee! That was a nasty trick! Giuseppe! Giuseppe Cristoforo! You make wine jug appear and Arlecchino get drunk and forget how hungry am.

Boil, boil, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. Fiat vino! Tah-dah! Grazie.

[Mimes drinking from bottle of wine, instantly getting drunk.]

Arlecchino am so drunk Arlecchino no can taste the wine. Arlecchino am so drunk, Arlecchino no can see the wine. Arlecchino get hungry when drunk. Arlecchino make polenta. Cornmeal––

[Mime pouring cornmeal into pot over fire]

Sploosh! Gloop gloop gloop! Crackle-crackle-crackle! Stir-rah-stir-rah-stir-rah!

Onion! Chop-pah-chop-pah-chop-pah! Oh onion cry! Arlecchino cry too. Arlecchino am sorry. onion. Sploosh! Gloop gloop gloop! Crackle-crackle-crackle! Stir-rah-stir-rah-stir-rah!

[Mimes a chicken.]

Pulchino! Cluck cluck cluck! [Mime strangling chicken.] Arlecchino am sorry! Chop-Aiee!

[Chops off index finger. Cries. Mimes removable finger. Licks finger stump, realizes he likes the taste, and enthusiastically throws the finger into the stew.]

Taste like pulchino! Sploosh! Gloop gloop gloop! Crackle crackle crackle! Stir-rah-stir-rah-stir- rah! Polenta pulchino digitalis!

[Enthusiastically eats the polenta from the pot, swallows spoon, mimes eating more fingers from the already maimed hand. Hunger satisfied, he rubs belly, notices that he has all ten fingers.]

Arlecchino am so drunk Arlecchino see ten fingers. Arlecchino not know Arlecchino know how to count to ten. Arlecchino am very drunk. Arlecchino am so drunk Arlecchino no can taste polenta. Arlecchino no can taste fingers. Arlecchino count ten fingers. Arlecchino no can see pot, no can see fire, no can see knife. Either Arlecchino am drunk or Arlecchino am tricked by mallo angelo! Mallo angelo make Arlecchino think am drunk! Mallo angelo make stomach think Arlecchino eat!

Oh! Signor Deos! You trick Arlecchino again! Giuseppe Cristoforo mallo angelo! Arlecchino am coming up to Paradiso to eat your food!

[Arlecchino mimes climbing ladder to heaven, cursing God, Jesus and all the angels of heaven, in grammelot]

Blasphemo angelo! Blasphemo Deos! Blasphemo Domino! Blasphemo Giuseppe!

[Arlecchino gets to heaven and his mood changes as he appreciates the view of the world from heaven.]

Paradiso! The sun is shining. Not a cloud in the sky! Clouds like smooshed grapes between Arlecchino’s toes! Oh look, Arlecchino see Pantalone’s house from here. Pantalone needs to fix roof.

[Briefly becoming Pantalone.]

Pantalone say: Arlecchino! Climb up on the roof and fix the hole! The rain comes through. Fix it! What do I pay you for? I don’t pay you to answer that question! Gratiano owes me a few ducats so take the shingles from his roof! And have Zanni hold the lader!

[Arlecchino reverts to himself.]

Oh. Columbina and Franchescina are doing laundry today! Look at Columbina! Look at Franchescina! It is good Arlecchino am in paradiso when Columbina and Franchescina do laundry! And now come Flaminia to do laundry! Oh oh oh! Holy meloni! Buon giorno, cleavage!

[Looks up from ogling the women doing laundry.]

Oh an angelo! Buon giorno Signor Angelo! [Bows.] You are so beautiful, so well fed, so fat, you spin big wagon wheels within wagon wheels where skinny angeli flap wings. And angeli sing so lovely:

[Arlecchino dances as if an angel to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, from the Ninth Symphony. Note that the verse contains a total of 64 beats:]

We the angels of heaven sing and play harp all day, Every day brings nine meals with wine and nine entrées. We the angels of heaven, we don’t have to share With the likes of Arlecchino because he belongs down there.

Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah… [et cetera]

Oh singing so beautiful, make Arlecchino cry, but Angelo so cruel Arlecchino am angry! Nasty Angelo!

Angelo come back now!

[Arlecchino shoves angel into his mouth and devours it.]

Mmmmm! So good! Angelo so deliciscio! So light! Arlecchino am hungry for more angeli! [Arlecchino proceeds to devour the heavenly hosts] Archangelo! Nyum nyum! Cheribimino! Nyum nyum nyum! Seraphimo! Nyum nyum! Hot hot hot hot!

[Arlecchino cast out from heaven presented as a pratfall.]


[Mime as if surrounded by flames.]


Arlecchino am not in Paradiso, no? Arlecchino in pit! Fire! Ouwie! Blasphemo! Hot hot hot! Burn like Flaminia! Ouwie! Feel like somebody stick big fork in Arlecchino bottom! Hey! Maybe Arlecchino am still in Paradiso! Ouwie! Big fork in Arlecchino bottom again!

[Turns around to see his attacker all while caressing own buttocks.]

Why you stick big long fork in Arlecchino bottom? Arlecchino bottom look tasty, huh? Served with garlic, and onion, and mushroom? Maybe a little gorgonzola? And you not offer Arlecchino slice of own ass! Who the diavolo you think you are?

[Smiles in recognition, and bows.]

Oh! Buon Giorno! Signor Diavolo Lucifero dell’Inferno! Arlecchino no recognize! Everyone in Venice say you look like Shylock, but no…

[To audience:]

…Shylock more handsome…

[Back to Lucifer. Mimes putting arm over Lucifer’s shoulder.]

…Signor Diavolo no look like Jew!

[To audience:]

More like goat.

[Back to Lucifer.]

Arlecchino so hungry!

[Arlecchino improvises a speedy grammalot retelling of the story. Only a few words and phrases need be intelligible.]

Ay! Arlecchino am Signor Diavolo friend! Diavolo cast down from Paradiso into flaminia pit dell’Inferno! Arlecchino cast down from Paradiso into flaminia pit dell’Inferno! Si! Arlecchino and Diavolo like brothers!

[Mimes taking pitchfork from Lucifer.]

Luciferno let Arlecchino hold big fork. Nice fork, Luciferno. All pointy tines. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

[Maniacal streak crosses Arlecchino’s face. In swift and violent action, Arlecchino stabs Lucifer with pitchfork, hoists it over his head, cackles sadistically, and taunts.]

That’s the way to do it! Signor Diavolo Luciferno want to stick fork in Arlecchino’s ass? Arlecchino fork you!

[Hoists Lucifer over fire, and starts to turn him on spit.]

Crackle-crackle! Sizzle-sizzle! Turn-a-turn-a-turn-a! Cook Diavolo dell’Inferno over open flame until skin is crispy! Crackle-crackle! Sizzle-sizzle! Turn-a-turn-a-turn-a! Flame broil to seal juices inside! Oh so red! Crackle-crackle! Sizzle-sizzle! Turn-a-turn- a-turn-a! Diavolo done!

[Using the batacchio now as a knife, Arlecchino cuts piece of flesh of Lucifer, gobbling it down. Lazzo of gorging self on Lucifer’s flesh.]

So peppery! And hot hot hot! Ouwie! Mmmm…

[Once Arlecchino has had his fill, he fans himself.]

Much too hot here, Arlecchino need fresh air.

[Mimes climbing stairs back to surface.]

Arlecchino am back!

[Kisses Earth.]

Arlecchino am back? Where? Pantalone always look for Arlecchino! [Confused, runs around in circles.]

Hey! Arlecchino tell Columbina! Arlecchino tell Franschina! Arlecchino tell Flaminia! Ahhhh!

[Suddenly despairs.]

Arlecchino am hungry!

[Lazzo of catching the fly. This time he is successful.]

Buzz! Arlecchino got you now, you fat juicy fly. Ooh, delicate wings! Nyum nyum nyum! Thin little legs! Crunch crunch! Nyum!

[Arlecchino devours the fly with the slow relish of a gourmand As the fly does not fill the emptiness in his belly, Arlecchino notices the audience.]

Who is you laughing at poor hungry Arlecchino? You, with bellies full, laugh at Arlecchino? Arlecchino am so hungry eat angelo, Am so hungry eat diavolo. Am so hungry eat own finger. Arlecchino eat your fat fingers. Am so hungry Arlecchino eat your fat stomachs stuffed with polenta and gorgonzola!

[Starts taking off mask.]

Arlecchino am so hungry—

[Actor examines the mask.]

Arlecchino eat own face!

[Actor’s teeth become immobile before they can actually bite down upon the mask.]

End of Play

Ian1331r10Ian Thal is a Washington, D.C. native now living in the Boston area. He is theater critic and senior contributor for The Arts Fuse. Arlecchino Am Ravenous developed from a series of improvisations in 2008 and he has performed it in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Other actors have performed it as far afield as Pennsylvania and Thailand. He has an MA from Boston College and a BA from SUNY Purchase – both in philosophy. His other plays are available on The New Play Exchange.