History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Latin American Post-WWII

José Revueltas edit

A notable example of playwriting expertise from post-World War II Latin America includes "El cuadrante de la Soledad" (Solitude Quadrant or Solitude Street, 1950) by the Mexican playwright, José Revueltas (1914-1976).

“The many compartimentalized encounters between characters, while failing to congeal into a larger, more conventional plot line, serve to reveal Mexican society and its problems through an open and candid interior view...Colombina, for instance, reflects in matter-of-fact terms upon the life of a prostitute, commenting fully on its pains and supposed rewards. The illegal drug activities of Rupert, El Parches, and Alfonso are chillingly crass and carefree. Enrique’s love affair with Alicia signals a breakdown of traditional values. Even Evaristo and Prospero, although seemingly benign, are judged guilty, the former because of his prior dealings with Colombina and the latter because of his illicit affair with Evaristo‘s wife. Perhaps the most disturbing characterization is that of Rupert. His totally amoral approach to life, which includes his nefarious alliance with the local police, serves as a pivotal point for the entire play. Finally, Eduardo, who by standard criteria must be judged the hero, commits suicide and thereby emphasizes the absolute absence of hope” (Slick, 1983 pp 145-146).

"Solitude Street" edit

Time: 1940s. Place: Mexico.

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Kity, a waitress working at the Shanghai cafe, has a morphine addiction. Her friend, Eduardo, advises her to seek help at a disintoxication clinic. Parches, a barrel-organ player, and his female-friend, Piedad, discuss a rumor circulating in the neighborhood to the effect that Ruperto, a drug-dealing friend of Malena, part-proprietess of the "Solitude Hotel", will be killed by a man named Lopez. Piedad says that this act will only be "changing fear", from fear of Ruperto to fear of Lopez. At the hotel, Enrique, a college professor, accompanied by Alicia, a student, asks for a room. To avoid his being ostracized by colleagues, Eduardo once saved Enrique's reputation by taking the blame when the couple were almost discovered by Prospero, director at the college. Alfonso, a man of Chinese origin and part-owner of the cafe with Malena, pretends to want to help Kity, but his form of help is to inject her with morphine. "We're all lost," the cynical Alfonso observes. "The secret consists of losing one's self joyfully." Malena learns that Ruperto is involved in a shady deal with the police. There is a workers' strike, and, to put the blame on the union leaders and to imprison them, the police plan to use Lopez and burn down a warehouse. Always seeking to help, Malena also tries to convince Columbina, an extravagant prostitute who has seen better days, to go to the hospital for the sake of her health, but she declines. Meanwhile, Alicia's father, Evaristo, meets his old friend, Prospero, to oust Eduardo and Enrique out of town, because he disapproves of her sexual relations. Ruperto confesses to his old lover, Margara, that he is indeed plotting the death of Lopez, her former husband, asking her to escape with him, but she refuses, planning instead to leave with Kid Pancho, also involved in the drug trade. Ruperto is playing a double game, since in addition to his deal with the police, he has a second one with the strikers, telling them that Kid Pancho is to set fire to the warehouse, and advising them to kill him. But to his dismay, Malena announces Kid Pancho' arrival, whom she knows is come to kill him by preventing his contact with Lopez, and so liable to be murdered by the police for double-crossing them. Lopez learned of Ruperto's betrayal from the strikers, as, unknown to Ruperto, he had deals with them himself. Ruperto is cornered, prevented of leaving by the presence of Kid Pancho. To help her lover in dire straits, Malena proposes to set fire to the warehouse herself, to which Ruperto agrees. Meanwhile, Columbina discovers Eduardo's dead body, who hanged himself for having sacrificed his career for Kity's sake, for which Kity blames her father and Prospero. An explosion is heard. When police officers rush inside the warehouse, they tell Ruperto that everything went smoothly, a dead body, Lopez, it is presumed, being found on the premises. But Ruperto confesses that Lopez never showed up, the dead body likely being Malena's.

Jorge Ibargüengoitia edit

Ibargüengoitia described how facing family conflicts is like speaking with some kinds of sphinx. Photograph of the author, 1965

Another work of interest by a second Mexican playwright is "Ante varias esfinges" (Before some types of sphinx, 1956) by Jorge Ibargüengoitia (1928-1983).

"Before some types of sphinx" edit

Trouble starts when Marcos acts like a type of sphinx. Great sphinx bearing the names of Amenemhat II (12th Dynasty), Merneptah (19th Dynasty) and Shoshenq I (22nd Dynasty),Louvre museum

Time: 1954. Place: Mexico City, Mexico.

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Marcos, a seventy-year-old grandfather, is dying, although his wife, Aurelia, assures him that the doctor said nothing is wrong with him. He does not believe it. Unable to see even the hands on a clock, he recognizes at least he is growing blind. Suspecting death indeed near, his sister, Beatriz, asks his other sister, Marta, to come over and forget their ten years of estrangement from each other. In dire straits after losing his job, Marcos' son, Alejandro, asks him for a loan. He agrees to give him a cheque the following day. Beatriz' son, Isidro, is dissatisfied with the adulterous relations he entertains with Teresa, wife to his brother, Carlos. "You define me by my faults," Isidro accuses her, but in his weakness he still clings to her. Marcos greets his sister, Elena, by asking whether her husband still beats her, although he has been dead for eight years, he himself having bought the coffin. After hesitating a little, he agrees to see Marta, telling her they must talk the next day. Marta informs Beatriz that she would like to bring over to the family home her eldest daughter, to prevent her from becoming a poor village girl as a result of her father's laziness and stupidity. Beatriz agrees, but informs her in turn that other than the value of the house there is no money left. The next morning, Isidro arises dispirited. "Another day to sully?" he wonders. Beatriz warns Isidro and Teresa to be careful about not revealing too plainly the nature of their relation. Isidro admits to Carlos, back from working on his farm, that, although he has been a bad brother to him, he nevertheless loves him. Carlos is also depressed. "Every time I get up, I ask myself: "What will I do today?" I answer: "Wait for the day to pass,"" he says. Aurelia shows Elena dried-up bouquets of flowers she received from Marcos many years ago. Elena replies that the best night she has ever spent was when her husband threw her out of the house and she had to sleep in the garden. "The night was magnificent, full of stars," she remembers. Marta receives a telegram from her husband, informing her that he is vomiting blood. She wants to leave him, asking Beatriz for a loan to bring over her two daughters, but since her sister has no money, she asks her father instead, who accepts. Carlos and Teresa have nothing to say to each other. After her husband leaves, Alejandro flirts with her, but is rejected. His wife, Rosa, informs him that Carlos insolently slapped her buttocks. Without warning Marcos dies. To save their marriage, Beatriz tries to convince Carlos to go off alone with his wife. Now that the money is lost, Rosa blames her husband for not requesting the loan sooner. Carlos tries to follow his mother's advice, but gives up. Beatriz next tries to get Isidro away, but he refuses. Instead, Carlos decides to go away at a vague destination. A dispirited Marta must also leave, to return to her husband because he refuses to let her daughters go.

Roberto Cossa edit

Roberto Cossa described the ravages brought about by old family members on younger ones

"La Nona" (Nona, 1977) by Roberto Cossa (1934-?) represents a black comedy from Argentina.

“The setting is the home of a lower-middle-class Italo-Argentinian family...La Nona can be interpreted as a fable about the family and particularly the revered position of the elderly mother and grand? mother. Beneath the cloak of maternal love and self-abnegation, the matriarch exercised a tyrannical control over the lives of children and grandchildren, a parasitical creature who sapped the vitality of younger generations. And surely, La Nona is a sardonic satire of the Italian obsession with food and the belief, which we Italian Americans continue to cherish, that as long as we continue to eat, things can't be too bad” (Vecoli, 1992 pp 218-219).

"Nona" edit

Nona's enormous appetite causes havoc in her family

Time: 1970s. Place: Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Maria considers that her sister-in-law, Anyula, pampers excessively her nephew, Chico, who is supposed to be composing tangos but without having achieved anything yet, a parasite living at the expense of his brother and her husband, Carmelo. Another matter of worry concerns the doings of her daughter, Marta, who often works all night long at a pharmacy. Carmelo arrives laden with vegetables from his stall at the market-place. He despondently notes that the family is losing money every month, the main reason being the feeding of two dependents: Chico and his demented Italian-speaking grandmother, Nona, a one hundred-year-old woman with a ravenous appetite. As a result, Carmelo insists that Chico accept a job as a fish-seller's clerk, but instead the latter proposes to take Nona to a doctor. Their talk is interrupted by Nona, who, because the light is still on at 10 PM, thinks it is morning and wants her breakfast. "Rondella dé mortadella, Carmelo, prego," she orders. Because such eating habits may be a sign of approaching death, Chico considers that she may have no more than one year to live. However, the doctors find no evidence of any physical ailment. To put off notions of his working for a living, a desperate Chico suggests that in view of the many perverts about, Nona may be used as a sexual bait for old men, but Carmelo refuses to consider that option. An even more desperate Chico takes Nona for a walk and abandons her in a public place, pretending to have lost her, but she succeeds in finding her way back. Undeterred, Chico has another scheme in mind: marry her off to Francisco, an eighty-year-old owner of a candy-shop, once Anyula's lover whose suit was denied by Nona many years ago. Chico succeeds in convincing Francisco that Nona is the owner of rich properties and that, to prevent her yielding all of them at her death to Anyula, they should seize them as her husband. Though suspicious, Francisco agrees. Her appetite ruins his finances and his health. When he suffers a stroke and becomes hemiplegic, the family have one more dependent to be burdened with. Carmelo loses his market-stall and is forced to work as a clerk to a fish-seller. Maria, Anyula, Chico, and Marta are also forced to work at poor-paying jobs. To obtain more money, Chico wheels Francisco to public places to attract charity, but one day loses him. They are forced to sell most of their furniture as Nona continues to eat. More desperate than ever, Carmelo, Chico, and Maria consider stifling Nona with a heating apparatus, but she puts a pan on it and prepares eggs for herself. They next consider poisoning her, but let her go to her room without forcing her to drink the poisoned beverage. Unaware of their plan, Anyula drinks the potion and dies immediately. Conditions deteriorate rapidly. Carmelo drinks. Marta turns into a whore working in her own room. She gets sick and is sent to a hospital. Food being scarce, Nona starts to eat flowers. When Carmelo tries to take them away from her, he has a heart attack and dies. Maria decides to move away to her sisters' house, leaving Chico with Nona. Chico shoots himself while Nona, unaware of his demise, suggests food-items they need to buy.