The Rubicon

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Maxim Titovets

a play in two acts

Translated by Ekaterina Zudova

«I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself». David Herbert Lawrence.

«Seek, and ye shall find». Matthew 7: 7–8.

«Last night I had this dream: The sea at dawn and a pat of flamingos by the water…». Maxim Titovets, Sharm el Sheikh, February 24, 2022.


Oleg (Sea Lion), owner of the Rubicon Hotel, 51 y.o.

Nadya, his wife, 43 y.o.

Makar, his brother, 48 y.o.

Katya, Nadya’s daughter from her first marriage, 18 y.o.

Andrey, 21 y.o.

Polina, 19 y.o.

Stvolov (Chopper), age unknown

Agap, hotel’s employee, 35 y.o.

The action takes place in present-day Russia.


Twenty years before the time the play is set.

A cold May night. A rapid of a mountain river. Wet stones are gleaming in the moonlight.

A scream rends the dark. It’s a woman. Something falls into the water, making a short heavy splash which is quickly drowned out by the rumbling of water.

Oleg comes out of the darkness, clothed in a sailor’s striped shirt, clenching a flashlight. A beam of light is sliding confusedly along the river and stones.

Makar is sitting on the edge of the cliff. Oleg aims his flashlight at Makar. Makar turns around. His face is covered in blood.

Oleg. Makar. You got your nose smashed. Where is Vera?

Makar. [He paws at the ground, aghast.] Eh?!

Oleg. Makar!

Makar. Oleg. It’s not my fault… she did it herself.

Oleg. You drunken fool! What have you done?


Scene 1

The Rubicon Roadside Inn & Diner, the parlor with panoramic windows. There are a few tables and a bar counter.

Evening. The storm is raging outside.

Andrey is standing in front of the bar counter. He looks around, then approaches the tableware stand, takes a fork, and puts it in an inside pocket of his jacket. After that, he picks up a knife, stabs an invisible opponent in the neck a number of times — his movements well-practiced, — tests the knife sharpness and puts the knife back on the table. Polina enters the stage. She goes down the stairs from the second floor carrying a tray.

Polina. Have you no shame? Stealing cutlery.

Andrey. No idea what you are talking about. I was just about to ask for the menu and order a bottle of good wine.

Polina. Garbage. You don’t have enough money to order a bowl of soup, let alone a bottle of wine.

Andrey produces a fat wad of shabby banknotes out of his pocket but then quickly puts it back.

Andrey. What are you doing here?

Polina. None of your business.

Andrey. You are a movie star, I’d wager. An actress? A supermodel?

Polina. I’m not. Who do you think I am?

Andrey. A waitress.

Polina. [Pause]. Well, and what are you up to when you are not busy stealing cutlery?

Andrey. To be perfectly blunt, I am looking for a job.

Polina. And what did you do before?

Andrey. Spent days in an asylum, served time, holed up in various places.

Polina. You were in a loony bin?

Andrey. That’s right.

Polina. After falling across a mean waitress, huh?

Andrey. Kinda. Do you see this foot?

Polina. So?

Andrey. I cut off my big toe with an axe.

Polina. What?! Why would you do that?

Andrey. To dodge the draft. Wanna take a look?

Polina. No way. I have no intention to see your stump. Damn, you really did that?

Andrey. Yep.

Polina. For crying out loud, what a place! It seems that our Rubicon is not really a poky hole of a place, considering its loony visitors.

Andrey. May I take a picture of you?

Polina. Why?

Andrey. It’ll be a proof that angels exist.

Polina. You are a funny guy.

Andrey. Not in the least.

Polina. One of a kind.

Andrey. Not in the least.

Polina. Yes, of course, you are

Andrey. Not in the least.

Polina. [Pause.] Right. Not in the least.

Andrey. What is your name?

Polina. Try to guess.

Andrey. People call me Andrey.

Polina. Well, if they call you, you should probably go.

Andrey. My psychiatrist says that we should accept others as they are.

Polina. Well, alright, the therapy session is over.

Nadya appears from the kitchen and stands behind the bar counter.

Nadya. [To Andrey.] Here’s your change. Your room is on the second floor. We serve breakfast at eight. The bar is open round the clock.

Andrey. Bingo!

Nadya. Polina, escort our guest to his room.

Polina. Welcome to the Rubicon Hotel.

Nadya rings the bell on the counter. Andrey and Polina take the stairs up to the second floor.

Andrey. Polina?

Nadya. And tidy up upstairs!

Makar appears from the second-floor corridor and runs into Polina and Andrey in the stairway.

Makar. Hi. How’s work?

Polina. Great! Hope to be a waitress here for the rest of my life.

Makar. What a bit of good!

Polina. [To Andrey.] Are you married? You have a ring.

Andrey. It’s a gruesome story. When I was a child, I was kidnapped by ornithologists…

Andrey and Poline leave.

Makar. The Moon is as beautiful as ever, outshining the Sun itself!

Nadya. A nice suit. [Pause.] Didn’t they have your size?

Makar. Nadya.

Nadya. Don’t take chances, Makar.

Makar approaches the door leading to Sea Lion’s study, peeps through a key-hole, and presses the door handle. The door is locked.

Makar. Nadya…

Nadya. Your brother lets you stay here out of pure generosity.

Makar. Say just one word.

Nadya. Go away, you viper.


Makar. So, where is my goody-goody brother?

Nadya. At the old ranger station, with the gamekeeper.

Makar. A raid?

Nadya. Some tourist has been ripped apart by a bear.

Makar. Poor little bear. These two won’t let it go.

Stvolov walks in.

Nadya. Welcome to the Rubicon Hotel.

Stvolov. It’s raining like hell. How are you, mistress?

Makar. [Aside.] Could be better.

Stvolov. Pour me some coffee and get me a bite to eat.

Nadya. What about something stronger?

Stvolov. A cognac, please.

Makar comes up to the window and peers into the darkness.

Stvolov. That went down good.

Nadya. Have a slice of lemon, it’s on the house.

Stvolov. There’s this village, Bear Creek Valley. How long will it take to get there?

Nadya. Why would you go so far at this time of night?

Stvolov. I’m going to see my brother.

Makar. How long has he been in jail?

Stvolov. He is a hydrologist there.

Makar. Hydrologists, geologists… Our gold makes everyone restless.

Nadya. Bear Creek Valley is three hundred kilometers away from the city. And we are right in the middle. The Rubicon.

Stvolov. The Ru-bi-con.

Makar. He’s gone.

Stvolov. Who’s gone?

Makar. Your taxi driver.

Stvolov leaps up, dashes outside, and then comes back.

Stvolov. Piece of shit. I didn’t get the plate number.

Nadya. And your bag’s in the trunk.

Makar. Count your lucky stars he didn’t bump you off on the way here.

Nadya. God spare us.

Stvolov. That’s a fine how-de-do you have here.

Makar. It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

Nadya. Welcome to the Rubicon Hotel.

Scene 2

The stage setting is the same.

Sea Lion and Agap enter. Sea Lion is dressed in a sailor’s striped shirt. He is carrying a leather travel bag.

Agap. Fuck

Sea Lion. What?

Agap. I got soaked to the bone and almost froze to death.

Sea Lion. It’s because you are a wuss.

Agap. I’m frozen stiff because of this wind.

Sea Lion. So, warm yourself, knucklehead. Maybe then you’ll hurry up your ass.

Nadya. [Aside.] Speak of the devil.

Makar. Agap! The street lamp isn’t working again. Go and fix it!

Agap. Suck my dick, will you?

Makar. Sure. If I can find it.

Sea Lion. [To Agap.] First feed the cattle. Then move the jeep to the pit, the U-joint’s clunking. [Handing his car keys over to Agap.]

Makar. So, goodbye, poor little bear…

Agap leaves

Nadya. Hello, Oleg. How did it go?

Sea Lion. [Looking at Agap.] The priest has gone away — the devils in the churchyard play. [To Nadya.] How many guests are here today?

Nadya. The place is chock-full.

Sea Lion. Where’s Polina?

Nadya. I’ve sent her upstairs to do some cleaning.

Sea Lion. Send her in.

Sea Lion unlocks the door of his study with a key and disappears inside.

Scene 3

Sea Lion’s study.

Sea Lion is seated at his desk. There is a knock at the door. Polina enters carrying a tray. She puts a jug of water on the table.

Sea Lion. Sit down. I’ll pay you up.

Polina. Alright, Oleg Sergeevich.

Sea Lion. You need money, don’t you? And yet you’re pussy-footing around it, not bringing the subject up.

Polina. I do. You promised to pay me.


Sea Lion. We agreed on twenty five grand a month.

Polina. It was thirty grand.

Sea Lion. No. Twenty five. It’s written down right here. I always pay twenty five thousand to the help. You’ve been working here for two months.

Polina. Two months and seven days.

Sea Lion. Exactly 2 months. You don’t get paid for the probation week.

Polina. Alright.

Sea Lion. Fifty grand in total… Minus eight Sundays off. Meaning out with seven grand.

Last month, the road was blocked for three days. We had no guests, so you didn’t have any work. Minus two and a half.

Polina. But I cleaned and scrubbed the whole hotel and brought a ton of wood…

Sea Lion. And who made lunch for you back then — Pushkin?

Polina. I had even strained my back and spent two days in bed with a fever afterwards.

Sea Lion. Here we are, minus one and a half. Thirty nine grand in total.

Polina. [Remaining silent.]

Sea Lion. Two weeks ago you dropped an entire tray of food for one of our guests. That’s minus four grand. Thirty five in total.

Polina. But…

Sea Lion. And by the way, the crockery costs much more than that. But that’s okay, not a big deal. Later on, a bunch of drunken fellows took French leave without paying the bill. That’s another ten grand. You should have watched out for them! And yesterday eight grand went missing from the cash register.

Polina. I didn’t take it.

Sea Lion. No one else could do that! Or are you telling me that I did?

Polina. I’m not.

Sea Lion. That’s a good girl. Thirty five minus ten and minus eight. It’s seventeen grand then.

Polina. I only borrowed money once… Three thousand from your wife. She can confirm that. But I have never taken any money from the cash register…

Sea Lion. Oh yes? You borrowed three thousand from Nadya? I didn’t know about that! Seventeen minus three is… humph…

Here is your money, Polina. Sign here.

Polina takes the money, signs her name, and leaves.

Sea Lion. Piece of cake. Only the strongest survive.

Polina comes back

Polina. That last time, you said I’d earn more. I really need money. What should I do?

Scene 4

The Rubicon Roadside Inn & Diner.

Makar. What was it like before?

Stvolov. What?

Makar. That’s just the point! And now what?

Stvolov. What?

Makar. Gee, that’s exactly what I’m talking about!

Stvolov. Fill it up.

Makar. And as for mobile service, we’ve never had it here. Dense forests!

Polina. That’s a hell of a storm outside.

Makar. The road is washed out now. You won’t be able to get out of here tomorrow, Stvolov.

Stvolov. I’m virtually born under a lucky star. No wonder I didn’t like the ugly face of that driver.

Makar. You know what they say here? Whack thy neighbor, punch him hard, jump on his chest. Then you’ll have the edge over the rest.

Nadya appears from the kitchen and stands behind the bar counter.

Nadya. Where do you mean — here? Look at him. Wasted again.

Makar. By no means…

Nadya. [To Stvolov.] Your room is on the second floor. Polina will escort you. Welcome to the Rubicon Hotel. [Ringing the bell.]

Polina. We serve breakfast at eight. The bar is open round the clock.

Stvolov. No flying from fate. Do you have a phone here?

Nadya. It’s at the entrance.

Stvolov rises from the table and makes his way towards the phone.

Stvolov. It’s not working.

Nadya. They’ve been palming us off with promises to get us a phone line for three years.

Stvolov. The Rubicon.

Makar. Rumor is they had to send to the bottom a whole ton of Viagra to get Titanic up.

Stvolov. Mistress, two more.

Makar. And a bite to eat!

Stvolov. And a bite to eat.

Nadya produces a decanter of vodka. Polina brings it to the table.

Makar. There was this philosopher who stopped by here.

Stvolov. A philosopher?

Makar. Well, something of the sort. He shared an interesting observation with me, in secret. An idea, let’s say.

Stvolov. An idea?

Makar. The law of life!

Stvolov. So?

Makar. What should a man say to his woman in order to maintain harmony in their relationship? [Casting a sidelong look at Nadya.]

Stvolov. I don’t know.

Makar. It’s a simple phrase, just learn it by heart. It goes like this: «I know what it feels like, my darling.»

Stvolov. Hm…

Makar. And what should a woman say to her man? On any occasion.


Makar. «Yes, master!»

Polina. [Bursting into laughter.] Oh, I’m sorry.

Makar. Watch and learn, Polina.

Nadya. Dinner will be ready soon. [She goes to the kitchen.]

Makar. I’ve had my fill with them!

Polina. Here, have a bite, Makar Sergeevich. [She serves them some cold snacks, then goes upstairs.]

Makar. What a bit of good!

Polina. Yes, master. [She leaves.]

Stvolov. That’s a hot little number.

Makar. She fell for me.

Stvolov. That’s bullshit. Can you get a night with her?

Makar. Go and ask her yourself.

Stvolov goes upstairs.

Scene 5

The Rubicon Roadside Inn & Diner.

Nadya. That’s some turnout today…

Makar. And yet our Rubicon’s said to be an armpit. Just look at how many people stay here!

Nadya. The hotel is full.

Makar. All the three rooms?


Nadya. This… drinking companion of yours, Stvolov. Demanding a phone, fancy that! What’s the use of it, one may ask?

Makar. The whole thing is just money-losing.

Nadya. I only want to put Katya on her feet. As soon as she graduates, I’ll never set foot in this kennel again. Never!

There is a loud sound of a bunch of dishes hitting the floor and breaking upstairs.

Nadya. What’s going on there? This nasty girl dropped the tray again. I’ll teach her! [Going upstairs and disappearing.]

Makar approaches the cash register, opens the cash till, grabs several banknotes, then closes the till, and steps away from the bar counter. Polina appears in the stairway. She goes downstairs carrying the tray full of broken glass.

Polina. A client smashed a jug to pieces, it’s a hoot! The Gorgon’s gonna make him dip into his pocket.


Makar. Is it hard for you here?

Polina. I’m a robust girl.

Makar. Life goes on. Even if we don’t really live.

Polina. Anyway, it’s better than walking the track.

Makar. Walking the track?

Polina. I’ve heard a lot of stuff from my sister.

Makar. But they have a whole new level of earnings.

Polina. Tell these tales to someone else, Makar Sergeevich. I know myself.

Makar glances back and then pulls Polina towards him. Polina breaks loose and, without taking a swing, slaps Makar across his face.

Makar. Oh, please, dolly girl. It’s gonna end up like this anyway, why playing Madame Butterfly?

Polina. Next time I’ll hit you on the head with this tray. It’ll cost you four grand according to our price list.

Makar. Come on, I was just kidding.

Polina. Just kidding. This ain’t my first rodeo.


Makar. Do you want to leave this place for good? Come to Moscow with me.

Polina. Moscow?

Makar. I mean it. Say yes.

Polina. For real?

Makar. [Looking over his shoulder at the kitchen door.] I’ll get my share of the hotel stock from Sea Lion and then we can get going!

Polina. Your share? From Sea Lion?

Makar. Easy peasy.

Polina. Ha!

Makar. I’ve had my fill with him! Just don’t tell anyone.

Polina. My lips are sealed. [She goes to the kitchen.]

Scene 6

The Rubicon Roadside Inn & Diner.

Sea Lion’s study.

Sea Lion. To Moscow? For good?

Agap. For good.

Sea Lion. A share of the hotel stock?

Agap. Yep.

Sea Lion. Agap! I’d really like to clean your clock…

Agap. Why?

Sea Lion. You’re saying these unpleasantries with too much relish.

Agap. I’m just…

Sea Lion. What else did they talk about?

Agap. I told you all I’ve got.

Sea Lion. That’s too bad!

Agap. It was too noisy in the kitchen.

Sea Lion. And what about the key-hole? Have you forgotten what I taught you?

Agap. Makar was way too far from the door.

Sea Lion. Watch it, Agap. If I find out that you’re in cahoots with him, I’ll skin you alive.

Agap. Boss!

Sea Lion. You can go now.

Agap leaves

Sea Lion. What are you up to, Makar?

Nadya enters carrying a tray with a glass of red berry juice.

Nadya. Cranberry, just like you like it, my sweet sailor.

Sea Lion. [Drinking the juice]. Thank you.

Nadya. We have to send money to Katya.

Sea Lion. Money?

Nadya. To pay for the second semester.

Sea Lion. Does anyone really need this education?

Nadya. We do.

Sea Lion. Paying to the help while having our own worker!

Nadya. Katya won’t be scrubbing floors for the rest of her life, will she? Enough’s enough.

Sea Lion. Enough?

Nadya. Eighty three thousand for the second semester.

Sea Lion opens a drawer of the desk, counts out the money, and hands it over to Nadya.

Sea Lion. Call Makar.

Nadya leaves

Sea Lion. There are many honest people but there are fewer and fewer decent ones.

Makar enters the study.

Makar. Nadya is angry at me again.

Sea Lion. No, Makar. It’s me who’s angry at you. Nadya just doesn’t want you.

Makar. Just spare me your lectures, I’m out of sorts today!

Sea Lion. Fine.


Makar. Do you have something to drink? [Without waiting for a response, he opens the mini-bar fridge and pours himself a glass of whiskey.]

Sea Lion. How much did you lose to the swindlers in yesterday’s game of Bura?

Makar. So, somebody’s already ratted. I was just about to cut out but they dragged me back in.

Sea Lion. A freaking Al Capone.

Makar. Around hundred grand, maybe more.

Sea Lion. A gambling debt is a debt of honor.

Makar. You want me to get stabbed?

Sea Lion. You’re used to it, aren’t you?

Makar. It’s not funny, Oleg. Give me the money.

Sea Lion. Perhaps you’d also like a share of the hotel stock?

Makar. Ha-ha-ha! I saw this creep ambushing in the kitchen, so I faked him out.

Sea Lion. Right, you’re a real master of lurking. While Agap still has a lot to learn.

Sea Lion opens the drawer again, gets a wad of banknotes out, and offers it to Makar.

Sea Lion. One hundred and fifty. It’s the last time I give you money this month.

Makar. Thank you, my boy.

Sea Lion. Pour me this whiskey too.

Makar. How much?

Sea Lion. You don’t see the edges?

Makar. As the saying goes, trust in God but lock your car.

Makar pours a full glass and puts it on the desk in front of Sea Lion, then tops off his own glass.

Sea Lion. Godspeed.

Makar. Here we go.


Sea Lion. Someone’s digging into us.

Makar. Who?

Sea Lion. You tell me.

Makar. Everything comes at a price. We’re bound to pay it some day.

Sea Lion. Oh, please, give these loads of philosophical garbage to your skirts!

Makar. There’s rumor going round the village that an officer came to the far mine, asking all about the gold.

Sea Lion. That nosy dork got mauled to death by a bear yesterday. An accident.

Makar. Poor little bear.

Sea Lion. The Siberian forests are vast, there are enough bears for everyone.

Makar. We’ll deal with the locals but my gut tells me that the digging was initiated in Moscow.

Sea Lion. Merp.

Makar. Our gold makes everybody restless. Speaking of which… How much did you get this time?

Sea Lion puts the travel bag on his desk. Makar opens it and gives a whistle.

Makar. We’d better beef up security. All kinds of loafers are hanging around here. [He takes the bag by the handles, weighing it, and puts it back on the desk.] Around eight kilos of pure gold.

Sea Lion. Katzmann advanced the rate.

Makar. Son of a bitch!

Sea Lion. We all earn money as best we can. Now’s not the time to pick a fight with him.

Makar. A la ger com a la ger. I say we bring this huckster to heel later. We’ll get our share of the cake, be sure.

Sea Lion. They won’t get me. Neither by force nor in any other way. I will use my own teeth to rip out their throats!

Makar. Tusks.

Sea Lion. What?

Makar. You will use your tusks to do that. You are a sea beast, Eumetopias jubatus, Steller’s sea lion!

Sea Lion. Get out of here.


Sea Lion. When the rumpus starts, I’ll set up all-round defense. And if it comes to the push, I’m gonna have to lie low. But you know what, Makar?

Makar. What?

Sea Lion. My brother. Makar Sergeevich. When the going gets rough... I’ll look around. And if you aren’t here, I’ll know that you’d set off in quest of your fortune and I won’t see you again.



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