The Smaragdine Jiboya

Jordan Barber, known as “The 20-year-old Tony Kushner” in some circles, takes into the depths of the jungle in the first half of his off-the-wall short play.

A short play about an eccentric professor, the graduate student whose grant money he is abusing, and a bizarre expedition into the jungle in search of things unknown. In the first half of this play, our “protagonists” find themselves deliberately hindered by a sudden pirate attack.

Professor Gadlox: eccentric scientist
Jane: graduate student
Bargemaster: bargemaster
Pirates: uh, swashbucklers?

Scene 1

A stuffy, messy office. PROFESSOR GADLOX is studiously—perhaps even furiously—writing at his desk. It is piled high with papers, like all professors’. He shuffles the many books on his desk, opening and closing them, in a similarly studious/furious manner.

[JANE enters. She cautiously approaches the Professor’s desk.]

JANE: Professor Gadlox?

PROFESSOR: What is it? I am quite busy. Furiously busy, actually.

[PROFESSOR GADLOX stands up and gets another book down from his shelf.]

JANE: I’m sorry sir, but I have my research proposal to drop off to you, sir.

PROFESSOR: Oh excellent, you may put that on my desk–right here.

[JANE motions to place it on top of a book.]

PROFESSOR: Good God, not there!

JANE: Oh, I’m so sorry!

PROFESSOR: It’s fine. Really. You’re just a graduate student. So young! Why, you’ve barely emerged from your parent’s gamogenesis.

JANE: Sir, I don’t know what that is.

PROFESSOR: Nonsense, my middle-school grandchild knows what that is. By the way, are you well? You look a bit luteolous today.

JANE: I’m just tired.

PROFESSOR: Oh very well. Why don’t you sit down a moment and talk to me about this “proposal.” For research.

[JANE gabs away, something about a recent anthropological discovery of polyliths in Sri Lanka. PROFESSOR GADLOX’s attention to the topic is poor, at best. He begins skimming the book he got down from the shelf.]

JANE: Blah blah blah–so I’ll need, like, $30,000 dollars–blah blah.

[PROFESSOR GADLOX flails out of his chair and stands up in a dramatic fashion.]

PROFESSOR: –Holy ergasiomania!

JANE: What Professor Gadlox? Are you having a heart attack?

PROFESSOR: Fucking Jesus, no! I’ve just discovered something I’ve been looking for! It’s taken me fifteen years to find this…

JANE: Why, what is it?

PROFESSOR: (muttering to self) This could to a whole new field of study. Whole worlds could be opened up. If only I had the means…

JANE: Sir?


PROFESSOR: What? Oh, yes. It is an enormously important finding. That I have found right here in this book, which is very odd. But yes. Let’s talk about you for a second.

JANE: Sir?

PROFESSOR: Well Jane, the truth is, you’re a little bland.

JANE: I’m sorry sir?

PROFESSOR: See what I mean? Jesus, you’re name is Jane. My name is Professor Gadlox. I’m not even sure if you even have a last name. And your research proposal is a little bland as well.

JANE: I don’t think you even–

PROFESSOR: Yes well you see your Sri Lankan mamby-pamby just isn’t going to cut it for this research grant. We need something bolder. Something bigger, something “deffer,” if you may.

[PROFESSOR GADLOX picks up Jane’s research proposal and rips it up. He opens his window and throws the shreds of paper outside. "Fucking environment," he is heard to say whilst closing the window.]

PROFESSOR: Jane, here’s what we’re going to do. I just discovered something amazing. I think this discovery can be your research proposal. I’ll simply write up the proposal, submit and approve it to myself, and then we’ll be sure to get the grant money because, well, I’m the one in charge of it.

JANE: So I don’t get to go to Sri Lanka?

PROFESSOR: No, don’t be stupid. We’re going somewhere much quieter, much more exotic. Hidden away from all the hustle and bustle and…Yes. So, sounds good? You know what? I won’t even write a research proposal, I’ll just say you did it and it’ll be fine. We’ll leave tomorrow how’s that?

JANE: It’s all so fast and I’m not even sure what we’re studying—

PROFESSOR: Twaddle! This is a big discovery; your name will be everywhere. Tomorrow it is, then. Say Jane, what are your plans for the evening? We might need to go over some details about the trip. Maybe we could get something to eat?

JANE: Uh, no. I’m meeting my boyfriend at six.

[PROFESSOR GADLOX looks at JANE somewhat confused.]

PROFESSOR: Do you really?

JANE: Yes.

PROFESSOR: Oh. Oh okay. Whatever.

Scene 2

A large steam barge headed up a river. It is tropical and humid. THE BARGEMASTER mans the wheel while PROFESSOR GADLOX looks on. He is wearing a ridiculously foppish khaki explorer get-up. He has a look of bold confidence. JANE enters from the cabin.

BARGEMASTER: (in exaggerated Australian accent) So I says to the Stevedore that the buntline was all askew on the burgee, but I tolds my boatswain to cringle the aftsides forebitt–

PROFESSOR: Oh, Jane! I see you’ve recovered from your woman-illness. I’m glad you’re up.

JANE: My boyfriend told me we should “take a break.” I’m sad, that’s not an illness.

PROFESSOR: Now you know we’re going into uncharted territory. There isn’t even a map for this place! So I’ve brought along esoteric instruments which should guide our way. So what I’d like you to do is to touch my astrolabe.

JANE: What?

PROFESSOR: Touch my astrolabe. I designed the plate specifically for this latitude. Go on, touch it.

[PROFESSOR GADLOX pulls out a circular, flat instrument.]

JANE: Okay, now what?

PROFESSOR: Well now we have to find our way by the star signs. So why don’t you spin it around.

JANE: I’m spinning it.

PROFESSOR: That’s good. That’s really good, JANE: Have you spun an astrolabe before?

JANE: Not that I know of.

PROFESSOR: Well I’m impressed. Now touch my rete.

JANE: Okay this is making me uncomfortable.

PROFESSOR: Well I don’t think this is uncomfortable at all. And I certainly don’t mean to be inappropriate, or maybe I…

[A loud crash knocks everyone on the deck.]


[A handful of PIRATES appear from nowhere. There is the much arr-ing and yarr-ing. They draw swords.]

PROFESSOR: Fuck! Jane, have you ever handle a gun before?

JANE: No, never!

PROFESSOR: Lackaday! Dammit Jane! What do they teach you in graduate school?

[PROFESSOR GADLOX draws a pistol from his khaki shorts. He draws a second one from his boots. He double-fists them, shooting somewhat indiscriminately.]

PROFESSOR: Jane get down, my shooting is somewhat indiscriminate!

[Several of the PIRATES are gunned down. THE BARGEMASTER engages in a saber duel with another pirate. They clash, curses are exchanged; it happens all so quickly--something about his mother. PROFESSOR GADLOX pushes the BARGEMASTER away and shoots the pirate in the face. The other pirates, seeing the Professor’s latent barbarism suddenly come to light, retreat.]

BARGEMASTER: Is everyone okay?

JANE: What did they want?

BARGEMASTER: They probably wanted money. Or women. Women to have sex with.

PROFESSOR: No, I fear worse. I fear they may have been henchmen sent to eradicate our presence here.

JANE: How would anyone know we’re here? And why would they want to kill us?

PROFESSOR: I believe we’re dealing with something greater than I led onto before.

JANE: What do you mean?

PROFESSOR: Wait. Wait one second.

[A Pause. PROFESSOR looks around.]

PROFESSOR: Where’s my astrolabe?

[Another pause.]

JANE: It must have… it must’ve been taken.

PROFESSOR: What? Weren’t you holding onto it?

JANE: Yes, but I think I dropped it in panic. The pirates probably took it.

PROFESSOR: And I thought you called yourself a good astrolaber. Zounds! Now we have no way of discerning our course. They’ve thrown us off track—intentionally I fear.

JANE: Who is it that we’re dealing with?

PROFESSOR: I’m afraid it’s…it’s…the Smaragdine Jiboia!

[Queue psychedelic suspense sounds.]

JANE: That’s gross.

BARGEMASTER:No, I know of this Smaragdine Jiboia.

[Psychedelic suspense sounds.]

BARGEMASTER:It is a local legend.

PROFESSOR: Yes. And that information I found in my office told me the location of it. I designed my astrolabe using that data.

JANE: And now it’s gone.

PROFESSOR: Yes, and we’re stuck on a river, on a barge, in the middle of nowhere.

BARGEMASTER: And we’re only two men. And one woman.

JANE: What are our options?

BARGEMASTER: I have heard there is a witch doctor living along these shores. He might be able to tell us the way.

PROFESSOR: Very well.

[PROFESSOR GADLOX’s bold look of confidence returns. JANE and the BARGEMASTER are grim-faced and full of unsurities.]

PROFESSOR: Full speed ahead!

To be continued…

Jordan Barber is proud that the internet allows him to criticize, admonish, and irritate people from his own living room. And though this immense power only comes to the few, he promises to wield his hammer of judgment with a standoffish, thoughtful outlook.