History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Early Latin American 21st

Claudio Tolcachir

Tolcachir presented squabbles between brothers and sisters and their immature mother while the grandmother’s health worsens. Photo of the author, 2015

“La omisión de la familia Coleman” (The omission of the Coleman family, 2005) by the Argentinian author, Claudio Tolcachir (1975-?), illustrated the troubles of a dysfunctional family in the midst of poverty.

“Leonarda Coleman, the oldest of three generations, pulls and keeps the family together in this house. When her presence is in jeopardy, familial negotiations crack; when Leonarda dies, the family disintegrates. Leonarda seems almost ordinary amid her disturbed relatives. Her daughter Memé displays a captivating yet alarmingly infantile zest: rather than acting like the mother, she acts like a blithe adolescent. Memé's daughter Gabi, a levelheaded seamstress, speaks ‘jeringoso’ (a children's language where additional syllables are used to disguise words) with her grandmother and has taken over her mother's duties. Given Leonarda's old age, Gabi keeps the household afloat. Gabi's fraternal twin Damian, a petty thief, hopes to leave the family home as soon as he can manage, though what stops him from leaving immediately is never elucidated. Memé's other son, Marito, is a seriously troubled young man whose apparently hurtful and nonsensical utterances, infused with uncommonly calculated enunciation and deadpan seriousness, exhibit an uncanny ability to perceive what others cannot. Memé's fourth child, Veronica, shares a father with Marito but not with the twins. Veronica was raised by her father, whereas Marito remained with his mother. Married to a wealthy man and mother of two young children, Veronica is now an upper-middle-class woman who craves bourgeois normalcy, yet feels guilty for growing up in her father's upwardly mobile environment. Leonarda's hospitalization and subsequent death, together with the introduction of Veronica's driver and the doctor unleash conflicted family dynamics and personal desires. Incest, jealousy, abuse, and adultery are only some of the joints of this social web, theatrically deployed through harsh accusations, nonchalant blackmail, and Marito's brusque non sequiturs that seem both irrational and eerily premonitory. Rather than operating as a cohesive unity, the family engages in a zero-sum game: every character endeavors to achieve his or her individual ambition at the expense of a relative's well-being" (Legon, 2007 pp 506-507).

”The omission of the Coleman family”

Gabriela discovers her mother’s panties hanging from the perfusion pole above her grandmother’s hospital bed

Time: 2000s. Place: Argentina.

Mario is hungry but unwilling to exert the effort of even boiling water for breakfast. His mother, Fortuna, surnamed Nena, an unmarried mother with 4 children from 2 fathers, relunctantly agrees to prepare it, but is unable to find a box of matches. Mario discovers one on the sofa, but, despite his hunger, he is tempted to tease her by hiding it and then tossing it over to Leonarda, Nena’s mother, joining in the fun. On her way to washing clothes, Mario’s half-sister, Gabriela, asks for dirty items to put in her basket. Leonarda quickly hands over hers while Nena hurries out to get her own, but Gabriela leaves before she can hand them over. Nena fails to find the matchbox while searching Mario all the way down to his buttocks despite his having retrieved it from his grandmother. Tired of the game, Gabriela’s twin-brother, Damian, hands over his lighter to his mother. To check whether one twin feels what the other feels, Mario tosses a water bottle at Gabriela’s face. Damian responds by jumping on his half-brother. As they wrestle, Nena joins them for the fun of it. Leonarda proposes that Mario take a shower long overdue, but he refuses until Damian pushes him under the shower with all his clothes on. Nena is unable to turn off the water until Damian handles the matter. In preparation of the visit of Mario’s married sister, Veronica, Nena proposes to help with her mother’s makeup, but the result is awry so that Gabriela must rearrange the matter. When Veronica arrives, Mario suggests that her two children might have short lives. Already upset by this comment, she prepares to leave when her private chauffeur, Hernan, enters and casts an appreciate eye on Gabriela, who buys old clothes to sell them again after sewing parts of them. When Nena offers to serve Hernan a cup of maté, Mario pushes her away. Aware of her family’s poverty, Veronica leaves Leonarda some household money. Unhappy about her present condition, Nena asks Veronica whether she can move into her house with her rich husband to watch her 2 children, but her daughter refuses. Gabriela takes away Mario’s bottle containing Dutch gin, but Nena says it belongs to her. Mario retrieves the bottle and heads for the bathroom, followed by Damian and Nena who struggle to get inside but eventually succeed. On reemerging, all three and Gabriela notice that Leonarda appears conscious but immobile and mute. After Gabriela calls for an ambulance, Nena is reminded that it is her mother’s birthday. On the first day at the hospital, Leonarda reminds her grandmother that she owes her a birthday gift. The doctor enters the room, whom Veronica names “Eduardo”, a man she obviously knows well. He announces that Leonarda will need to submit to several tests. Gabriela enters followed by the entire household. Nena heads for the bathroom and is unable to close the faucet again, a matter fixed by Gabriela. The end of family visits soon arrives and it is decided that Damian will remain with his grandmother. On the second day at the hospital, Nena, Gabriela, and Mario visit her again, Mario throwing down a bloodied bandage on the floor and complaining that the wound on his arm is open, the result of an accidental blow received when he and his mother were playing with a knife. He accuses her of stabbing him deliberately, which she denies. Suspecting Damian might steal something on hospital grounds, Veronica insists that he hand over his backpack to Gabriela. When the doctor arrives to assess the medical background of the grandmother, he is vaguely told that she might have taken antidiuretic medication but no one remembers the name of the treating physician. He is also told that Nena and Mario sleep on the same bed. Although Mario refuses to let the doctor check his wound, Nena promises to bring him over. On the third day at the hospital, Leonarda is off perfusion but declines to eat. She learns that the family has no longer access to warm water or heat in the house because she forgot to pay the gas bill. As a result, Nena takes a shower in her bathroom, but she announces that there is no soap. Damian hands over a bar of soap stolen from an adjoining hospital room. When Mario starts to eat a sandwich, his grandmother suddenly becomes hungry, too, and asks for his sandwich. He refuses. Damian insists that he give it to her. He refuses. They fight and fall on the hospital bed. Leonarda takes advantage of the situation by biting into the sandwich and hiding it under the bed-sheets. When Nena comes out of the bathroom, Gabriela enters to take a shower as well. Nena hangs her panties over the perfusion pole. Veronica finds out that because the family is without food at home, they ordered some at the hospital and charged the cost to her. She removes Nena’s panties from the pole and Mario takes it from her. Preoccupied for her reputation at the hospital, she announces that she cancelled their hospital meals and will give them money to eat elsewhere. Moreover, she asked her husband to bring over her children to see their grandmother but wants the rest of the family out of the way. However, they refuse, so that she annuls that idea as well. Hernan shows up to take her to her car. Before going, he asks Grabriela whether she will stay the evening in the hospital room. She responds positively. The doctor recommends that Mario be evaluated for a blood test. Mario refuses until he promises him some food at the emergency unit. On the following day after Leonarda’s death, the doctor announces to Veronica and Nena that Mario has leukemia. When Veronica sits down with Mario, he mentions her children again in a disobliging way so that they engage in a physical struggle. When Gabriela learns from the doctor that Veronica knows something about Mario, she pretends to know nothing. Hernan shows up on his day off to help Gabriela with hospital papers. When requested, he refuses to take Veronica in his car. Damian asks Gabriela for money as he must disappear for a while. He accepts money from Hernan and also takes some more from the wallet Veronica left behind. Nena asks Veronica again about the possibility of living with her. She refuses again until her mother declares that she has noticed her overfamiliar relation with Eduardo and insinuates that her husband might know about it.

Sergio Blanco


Of note from Uruguay is the gangster drama, ".45'" (.45 caliber, 2003), written by Sergio Blanco (1971-?).

".45 caliber"


".45 caliber". Time: 2000s. Place: Uruguay.

Basilio, a hired killer, spreads mayhem at an oil company. A gun and .45 caliber bullets

Ulrich Richter, co-president of the oil company, Richter & Havers, is angry that his business partner, Garret, has convinced the board of directors on reducing the price of oil without consulting him. Because of the danger Garret represents within the company, Ulrich convinces Nold Havers, the other co-president, and Nold's son, Kurt, of the need to have him murdered. He hires Basilio, an employee at his private firing range and secretly his bastard son but adopted by Jeremias, mainly responsible for preparing the firearms. Basilio succeeds in killing Garret and burying him without a trace. To consolidate power within their ranks, Ulrich forces his daughter, Elena, to marry Kurt. Ulrich's son, Evard, arrives for his sister's wedding ceremony. Since being told he accidently shot his mother at the age of ten at the firing range, when actually his father murdered her, Evard has lived aloof from business matters, to his father's disappointment. To his further grief, Evard wants to divulge he is Basilio's half-son, because Basilio, unconscious of the incestuous relation, has been for several years Elena's lover. Unable to convince his son to desist, Ulrich hires Celio, another employee at the firing range, to murder him. A third employee, Fabio, informs Celio that Jeremias, whom all three employees hate, has accidently fallen down a flight of stairs and is seriously injured. Celio believes that Fabio pushed him down, which the latter denies in great fear. Jealous of Kurt's happiness, Basilio murders Elena during the wedding ceremony and escapes with her dead body. When Evard catches up to Basilio, the latter gives up and hangs himself. On seeing Celio arrive, Evard immediately understands he is to be his father's next victim and submits himself to being shot to death. Ulrich and Nold decide to cede control of the company to Kurt. At the end of a business deal with a cardinal concerning a Renaissance painting from the Vatican, Ulrich starts feeling sick and begs him to absolve his sins during confession, but becomes anguished when the pardon comes too easily. He dies terrified at the impression of imagined flames about his person. To Fabio's disappointment, Celio, as the new boss, becomes a second Jeremias to him, a tyrant bitterly complaining about the quality of his work.