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L6pez Rubio and the Well-Made Metaplay PHYLLIS ZATLIN Spanish author Jose L6pez Rubio (b. 1903) was living in Hollywood, writing screenplays for Fox Films, when he started drafting Celas del aire in 1935. The work remained unfinished until 1949, opened in Madrid in 1950, and proved to be the greatest commercial success, both in Spain and abroad, of the playwright's long and distinguished career. Following staged readings by the Intiman Theatre Company in Seattle in 198I and The Writers Theatre in New York City in 1982, the L6pez Rubio comedy achieved its first American stage production in 1986. The translation by Marion Peter Holt, titled In August We Play the Pyrenees, fittingly opened on 5 August and ran for five weeks at the Shady Lane Playhouse in Marengo, Illinois. As one reviewer commented, "It is a wonder something so clever took so long to cross the Atlantic. ... In August We Play the Pyrenees is a perfect diversion for a lazy summer evening.'" Indeed Holt's English title self-consciously reflects the play's suitability for summer stock. It is a well-made, bourgeois comedy par excellence. If, as a noted Spanish theatre theorist has observed disparagingly, the well-made play for some hundred and fifty years has had but one theme, "el quion engaiia a quien en el matrimonio" (who is deceiving whom in the marriage),' then In August We Play the Pyrenees cannot help but satisfy the expectations of the traditional bourgeois playgoer. "Marital fidelity and infidelity - with emphasis on the latter - is the concern of 'In August We Play the Pyrenees.' ''3 It is, however , only the surface concern. Spectators seeking diversion on a lazy summer evening are free to limit their perspective to that aspect of the text, but L6pez Rubio's underlying theme is bourgeois comedy itself. Through a miseen abfme oftheatrical game within theatrical game within theatrical game, the playwright lays bare the conventions of the formula he manipulates, thus subverting the wellmade play while holding up a mirror to the middle-class audience it attracts. On the surface, In August We Play the Pyrenees is, indeed, a conventional comedy of marital infidelity. Cristina, an exaggeratedly suspicious wife, L6pez Rubio constantly imagines that her husband Bernard is unfaithful. Their friend Enrique, not realizing that in fact Bernard is having an affair with his own wife Isabel, suggests to Bernard that Cristina can be cured by having Isabel and Bernard pretend to be in love. When Cristina realizes that the feigned love affair is real, she counteracts by having Enrique pretend to be in love with her, thus making Bernard jealous. Her ploy works. Bernard realizes that he loves his wife, not his mistress. Cristina forgives Bernard, and the comedy ends with the presumably happy reconciliation of the young couple. Particularly when we place this surface story into the context of Spain in 1950 - and it is worth noting that the Shady Lane production was done in costumes from the fifties - we see that it falls neatly into what George Szanto has called integration propaganda4 The bourgeois audience, viewing theatre as a pleasant escape, could be expected to applaud comedies that, while naughtily hinting at deviations from acceptable moral norms, ultimately reinforced the status quo. In August We Play the Pyrenees does just that. The initial dilemma of the adulterous husband is resolved through "true love" and the wife's forgiveness. The sanctity of marriage - and the double standard - is upheld. It is somewhat surprising that Franco's official censor overlooked Isabel's adultery, which goes unpunished, but the spectators' sympathies are so clearly with Cristina and against Isabel that the former' Striumph over her rival would leave all but the most sanctimonious quite satisfied. Other aspects of the play also meet the conventions of bourgeois comedy in the realistic/naturalistic mode. The staging is representational. The action, limited to little more than twenty-four hours, takes place in the inevitable upper-class drawing room. The stage set provides enough doors, both to the garden and to other parts of the house, to facilitate rapid action and unexpected entrances. The cast is small: the two young couples, an elderly couple, and the equally inevitable...


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pp. 512-520
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