The Red Telephone.


  • NARRATOR: A disembodied female voice, preferably with a mild Received Pronunciation accent, perhaps like Carole Ruggier.
  • GORBACHEV: The actor playing this character should have some sort costume item identifying him as the former General Secretary of the Communist Party. Ideally, the actor would be bald and the famous "map of Russia" birthmark would be applied by stage makeup. He speaks with a "Boris and Natasha"-like Russian accent, played for comedic effect.
  • PHONE: Another offstage female voice, this one with a pleasant American accent, the sort you'd hear if you called virtually any bank with an automated operator.

(All stage lights are dimmed.)

NARRATOR: The year is 1991. Twenty-eight years after its inception, the famous Moscow-Washington telephone line remains an important diplomatic tool for preventing a global nuclear war. However, on Christmas Eve, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev would discover that phone could be far more sinister than thermonuclear holocaust.

(Lights come up on GORBACHEV, seated next to some stage furniture resembling a desk. He picks up handset on a red telephone and dials a number. Then he places the handset to his ear and there is a slight pause.)

PHONE: Thank you for calling the White House automated switchboard. If you know the name of the person or office you'd like to call, say it now.

(GORBACHEV is surprised by the new system. He has a puzzled look on his face.)

GORBACHEV: Merry Crees-mass, Preh-see-dent Boosh!

PHONE: I'm sorry. I did not understand (Pause. PHONE repeats GORBACHEV as though his response was recorded.) Merry Crees-mass, Preh-see-dent Boosh. (Pause.) When you hear the choice you'd like, say it. Economical Voodoo. How to Read Lips. When one point of light went out, they all went out!. Operation Just Because. Nuclear Vessels.

GORBACHEV: (Exasperated.) Nuclear Wessels?!

PHONE: All right. Nuclear Vessels. We notice you're not calling from your home phone number.

GORBACHEV: I am calling from the Kremlin, Preh-see-dent Boosh! You joke! I get it!

PHONE: For security purposes, please say your spouse's maiden name...

(Pause. GORBACHEV is beginning to realise that PHONE is not joking.)

GORBACHEV: Maksimovna?

PHONE: ...after the tone. Beep.

GORBACHEV: Maksimovna!

(The questions begin to come in rapid succession, each quicker than before, bringing GORBACHEV closer to the breaking point. PHONE begins to speak as though an interrogation was taking place)

PHONE: Your first pet's name.

GORBACHEV: Boris the Bear!

PHONE: Your high school mascot.

GORBACHEV: The ice weasel!

PHONE: Your favorite color. The town of your birthplace. Your favorite food...

GORBACHEV: Red! Stavropol! Borscht!

(Gorbachev screams in frustration and begins to pantomime pressing the touchpad on the phone.)

NARRATOR: Intelligence reports state that thirty six minutes later, after pressing the 'zero' button to speak with a human a desperate 9,437 times, Mikhail Gorbachev finally broke down in tears. The next mornining, the Soviet Premier delivered his farewell address to the Politburo and the Russian people. The Soviet Union was no more.

(Lights fade to black.)