Adaptation of The Man Who Counted into a short play (9 characters)

This short play adaptation of one of the stories from the well-known book The Man Who Counted is a good example to be performed by 9 characters, either by teens or adults.

Title of the play: “A capricious inheritance”.

Free, theatrical adaptation of the literary work The Man Who Counted by Malba Tahan.

Adaptation: Leonor Gurría.

9 Characters:

  • Mohamed, 40 years old.
  • Beremiz, 35 years old.
  • Man 1: 29 years old.
  • Man 2: 27 years old.
  • Man 3: 25 years old.
  • Camel 1 (two people).
  • Camel 2 (two people).

The camels must be designed and built as a botarga, their expression is of well-being and placidity; they are walked by two people, one in front and the other behind. When Mohamed and Beremiz drive them, they must also appear to be riding it.

Costumes: It is recommended to look for illustrations that show the male clothing of the 14th century. Simple, not ostentatious.

Scenography: The backdrop is a rustic painting of a desert landscape, with a city of beautiful monumental buildings on the horizon. It is recommended to look for illustrations of Baghdad from the 14th century.

Flora typical of the desert, not abundant, some palms gathered as a fragment of an oasis.

“A whimsical heritage.” Single scene.

Open the curtain. Darkness, Arabic music begins. Fade in, a backlight illuminates a backdrop painted with a beautiful desert landscape where in the background and in the distance you can see the magnificent towers of some ancient Arab buildings. Some palms, like the ones that grow in the oasis, are distributed on the stage.

A zenithal light turns on and, directed to the proscenium, illuminates MOHAMED who addresses the audience, music comes off:

MOHAMED: One day, I was riding my camel on the road that would take me to Baghdad, when I saw, sitting on a stone, a modestly dressed traveler. His name, Beremiz Samir.

As Mohamed begins his narration, a man sitting on a stone is discreetly illuminated as he performs a count; he uses fingers and knuckles of both hands, he mumbles figures.

MOHAMED: The presence of that man so attracted my attention that I could not help but approach him, greet him in the name of Allah, under the pretext of inviting him a drink of water.

Mohamed approaches the man with some discretion, unhooks a leather canteen and offers it to him. Beremiz takes it and thanks him with a discreet bow.

MOHAMED: I suppose you do a lot of complicated accounting, do you work for a rich and powerful lord?

BEREMIZ: I do not censure the curiosity that leads you to distract the march of my calculations and the serenity of my thoughts. And since you knew how to be delicate in speaking and in asking, I will satisfy your curiosity. For that I need, however, to tell you a little of my life.

Mohamed, brimming with curiosity, sits down next to Beremiz.

BEREMIZ: Every day, at sunrise, I took a huge flock to the field. For fear of losing a sheep and being punished, I counted them several times during the day. In this way, I gradually acquired such an ability to count that soon after, I was able to calculate instantly and without error the entire flock. Not content with that, I went on to practice counting the hundreds of birds when, in flocks, they flew through the sky and I became very skilled in that art.

MOHAMED (exclaims astonished): What a marvel! Such skill can provide anyone with a sure means of gaining enviable riches.

BEREMIZ: How so? (Asks in surprise).

MOHAMED (explains enthusiastically): Your admirable skill could be employed in twenty thousand different cases. In a great capital like Constantinople, or even in Baghdad, you would be a useful auxiliary for the Government (he increases his enthusiasm). You could calculate populations, armies and flocks. You could easily evaluate the wealth of the country, the value of the collections, the taxes, the merchandise and all the resources of the State (he draws with his arms an enormous space).

Beremiz, surprised, stands up at Mohamed’s words.

MOHAMED: No doubt you could, perhaps, exercise the position of vizier – treasurer or perform the functions of muslim finance.

BEREMIZ: If so, young man (answers the calculator with conviction) I do not hesitate any longer, and I accompany you to Baghdad.

Mohamed with a whistle makes his happy camel come. The new friends, enthusiastic, mount their camel on their way to Baghdad. At a gallop, they go around the stage twice, then Mohamed counts with enthusiasm in the direction of the audience.

MOHAMED: A few hours after traveling without interruption, an adventure worthy of being referred to happened to us, in which my companion Beremiz put into practice, with great talent, his skills as an illustrious algebraist.

Mohamed and Beremiz untimely stop the gallop of their camel when three men enter the scene, arguing exultantly.

MOHAMED: (addressing the audience). We found three angry men shouting expletives at each other and arguing heatedly beside a lot of camels.

MAN 1: It can’t be!

MAN 2: This is theft!

MAN 3: I don’t accept it!

Beremiz and Mohamed descend from the camel. Beremiz cautiously approaches them.

BEREMIZ: I beg your pardon for the intrusion. Can we be of any service to achieve your peace of mind?

MAN 1 (the oldest): We are brothers and we received, as an inheritance, those 35 camels (he points outwards, at one end of the stage). According to the express will of our father, I should receive half, my brother Hamed Namir a third, and Harim, the youngest, a ninth.

MAN 3: (intervenes angrily) We do not know, however, how to divide 35 camels in this way, and at each division that one proposes the other two protest, for half of 35 is 17 and a half. How to find the third part and the ninth part of 35, if the divisions are not exact either?

Man 2 extends his arms as if reaffirming his brother’s question.

BEREMIZ: It’s very simple (he answers with total certainty).

The three brothers freeze. Beremiz goes in search of Mohamed’s camel and brings it closer to the place of the dispute.

BEREMIZ: I will take care of making this division with justice… (caresses the camel’s trunk) if you allow me to join the 35 camels of the inheritance, this beautiful animal that brought us here in good time.

MOHAMED (enraged): I cannot consent to such madness! How could we end our journey if we were left without our camel?

BEREMIZ (replies in a low voice): Don’t worry about the result. I know very well what I am doing. Give me your camel and you will see, at last, what conclusion I want to reach.

MOHAMED (addressing the audience): Such was the faith and assurance with which he spoke to me, that I no longer hesitated and gave him my beautiful camel which he immediately added to the 35 camels that were there to be distributed among the three heirs.

BEREMIZ (addressing the three brothers): I am going, my friends, to make an exact division of the camels, which now number 36.

BEREMIZ (Addressing man 1, the oldest of the brothers): You were to receive, my friend, half of 35, that is, 17 and a half. You will receive instead half of 36, that is, 18. You have nothing to complain about, for it is quite clear that you gain from this division.

Man 1 is surprised.

BEREMIZ (Addressing Man 2): You, Hamed Namir, were to receive a third of 35, that is, 11 camels and a bit… You are going to receive a third of 36, that is 12. You will not be able to protest, because it is also clear that you gain in the exchange.

Man 2 wants to ask, but Beremiz continues with his masterly operation and does not give him the opportunity to speak.

BEREMIZ (Addressing Man 3): To you, young Harim Namir, who according to your father’s will were to receive a ninth part of 35, that is, 3 camels and part of another… I will give you a ninth part of 36, that is, 4, and your gain will also be evident, for which it only remains for you to thank me for the result.

Man 3 is overcome by a huge smile.

BEREMIZ: (in a masterly tone) By this advantageous division which has favored you all, (turns to man 1)… 18 camels will go to the first, (turns and takes man 2 by the shoulder)… 12 to the second and (points to man 3)… 4 to the third… 18 + 12 + 4 which gives a result… of 34 camels.

BEREMIZ: Of the 36 camels there are therefore two left over. One belongs, as you know, to my friend the “bagdali”… and the other one belongs to me, by right, and for having solved to the satisfaction of all, the difficult problem of the inheritance.

Mohamed, who has followed the operation in detail, does not recover from the surprise.

MAN 1 (exclaims satisfied): You are smart, stranger! We accept your distribution in the certainty that it was done with justice and equity.

Amid laughter, jokes and hugs, the three brothers leave. The oldest returns with a camel and hands it over with a bow to the mathematician.

Mohamed, completely astonished and rejoicing, silently observes Beremiz with undisguised admiration.

Beremiz happily caresses his new camel.

Arabian music enters. Lights come out, the curtain closes.

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