BACK TO “CASABLANCA”
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into his—again—this time alone. Why?
We are in Rick’s Café Americain, in Casablanca. It’s after hours. Rick sits at a table, totaling receipts. Ilsa enters, wearing white. Sam, polishing the piano, sees her first.
SAM: Miss Ilsa!
At the sight of his beloved, a look of pure joy crosses Rick’s face. But this is Rick and life has taught him to be guarded. Besides, his beloved is married, to Victor Laszlo, freedom fighter and, dammit, nice guy. Flashing into Rick’s mind is their farewell scene, a benediction it was, at the airport: Rick, sacrificing their love so Ilsa could help Victor continue his work, their final destination—where: America? Mainly Rick remembers Ilsa finally accepting the sacrifice, blessing him, that last look in her eyes—of pure love—which he sees again now, plus something more…. The lovers look at each other, transfixed, so it’s up to Sam to get this reunion moving.
SAM: Sixty years gone by—no, sixty five!—and you’re still looking beautiful, Miss Ilsa. The world’s done changed—don’t recognize it at all—but you haven’t changed, Miss Ilsa, not a bit.
ILSA: Neither have you, Sam. Or you, Rick. Just as I’d hoped. It must be…magic.
RICK: Magic, it definitely is…..
ILSA: Rick, I need to talk to you, about two things—
RICK: First, there’s one thing I need to ask. (Pauses) There’s no polite way to ask this, so I’ll ask straight out: Are you alone? Is Victor with you?
ILSA: Victor died, two years ago, in America. I’m alone—oh it’s so good to see you two again, I could cry!
As Sam turns to play “As Time Goes By,” Rick and Ilsa fall into each other’s arms. Rick plants one—a deep, long kiss—on Ilsa, reclaiming his beloved. Just like old times. Sam’s playing is swelled by an orchestra joining in, which frees him to go to the bar and set out the Champagne.
SAM: This calls for a celebration! Sure is good to see you again, Miss Ilsa, after so long. As time went by (laughs). Yessir, since you left, the world’s gone downhill (pops cork). World War Two was supposed to set things right, but then there was Korea, Vietnam, the heebie-jeebies of the Cold War. And the neighborhood around here—whew, the Israelis and the Palestinians, Iraq, Sudan…sad. And child soldiers: criminal, just criminal….. But we’re fine, Miss Ilsa. After you left with Mr. Victor, we went to Brazzaville, with Captain Renault—remember him?—and set up there, a place like this. But the Captain—he’s no waiter, so when Casablanca quieted down again, we came back. The Captain is back to policing, and we reopened Rick’s Café Americain. We follow world events—first Internet café in Casablanca is right here—and we make a good living, ’cause people like to play.
Sam brings the tray to Rick and Ilsa, now seated at a table.
SAM: His feelings for you haven’t changed a bit, Miss Ilsa—
RICK: Have some Champagne, Sam—and give your throat a rest.
SAM: You were too busy to do the update, Boss. Don’t worry, I poured myself a glass—cheers.
Sam returns to the piano and resumes playing, with the orchestra continuing.
RICK (toasting): Here’s looking at you, kid…again.
ILSA (toasting): Oh, darling, I’ve waited and waited and waited for this moment…..
Ilsa dissolves in tears—happy tears, sad tears. Rick puts his arm around her.
ILSA: At last, safe harbor again…. We were so relieved to learn you were back in Casablanca, safe.
RICK: Casablanca hasn’t always been quiet. But yeah, I’ve been…safe. Now, what was it you wanted to talk about?
ILSA: First, about America. Things are bad there, Rick, very bad.
Rick stiffens slightly, lights a cigarette.
ILSA: I know you’re not political, Rick, not outwardly. But I was hoping my fellow American would hear me out. I’m an American citizen now.
RICK: I’ve never been back. Never felt the need.
ILSA: Then let me tell you how it goes there, please…..
RICK: (takes a long puff): All right, go ahead.[CONTINUED]