Vivian wakes up in pain and addresses the audience. She says she wants to explain how the pain feels, but she doesn’t have the words. She apologizes for how this horrifying pain might affect the “dramatic coherence of [her] play’s last scene,” but it really “hurts like hell.”
Once again the brutal realities of life overpower human constructions like language or “dramatic coherence.” For Vivian, losing her words must feel especially painful and degrading, as they were her last bulwark against losing control entirely.
Susie enters, and says she’s paged Kelekian. Kelekian enters, and Susie says they need to give Vivian “Patient-Controlled Analgesic”—a pump so that Vivian can control how much pain medicine she receives in her IV. Kelekian asks Vivian if she’s in pain, and Vivian is infuriated by the question. She describes her ailments and brutal suffering, crying, but she is “unnoticed by the staff.”
Susie, who values Vivian as a person, wants her to have some agency in her situation and control how much pain medication she gets. Vivian finally cracks under Kelekian’s insensitive questions and lashes out, in her desperation seeking any kind of connection, even a negative one.
Kelekian orders a morphine drip, going against Susie’s suggestion of Patient-Controlled medication. He tells Vivian they’re going to help her through this, and then leaves. Vivian addresses the audience, her voice weak: “Hi. How are you feeling today?” She says that these are her “last coherent lines” in the play. She then quotes Donne about death again, using the melodramatic punctuation E. M. Ashford had criticized in her earlier flashback. But Vivian “sees that the line doesn’t work,” and she apologizes to the audience.
Kelekian takes away Vivian’s last vestige of control—how much pain medication she receives—and gives her a strong dose, essentially rendering her incoherent for the rest of the play. Vivian poignantly asserts her melodramatic interpretation of Donne, hoping to find some kind of answer or solace in this crisis, but still she is stymied by her own analytical self, and perhaps also by the tragic realization that there never was any real answer to be found in language. She has been stripped of everything, even her words, and must face death with only the core of her being.