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Reviews 219 George E. Wellwarth. Spanish Underground Drama. University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1972. Pp. 169. $8.50. In this study of censored drama in contemporary Spain, we are pre­ sented with the interesting phenomenon of a body of literature better known in translation than in the original, since the majority of the plays considered have been neither produced nor published in Spain. A good number of them have appeared in English, published in anthologies or in Modern International Drama. In his introductory chapter Well­ warth traces the complications produced by censorship and digresses long enough to present a perceptive description of the historical background of the contemporary political scene (the Franco regime of the post-Civil War period). Censorship is the sine qua non of the totalitarian state. To maintain itself in power, the state is obligated to control all the media, since as the author points out, the peaceful succession to power of the opposition is not an acceptable condition. Theatre is an obvious vehicle for criti­ cizing the society, and has been used very effectively in the United States, for example, by such groups as the Bread and Puppet Theatre, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and various Chicano groups. Such freedom is not to be tolerated in Spain, where the plays performed are normally evasionist pieces (i.e., non-committed politically) or those with the compromises necessary to meet the stringent requirements of the state. Some writers are willing to make adjustments, on the principle that something is better than nothing. Until recently, the authorities reviewed and regulated in advance all works to be published or performed. A sub­ sequent “relaxation” permitted publications and productions without previous censorship, but the effects of this insidious move soon became apparent—after long and expensive rehearsals, a play could be closed immediately before, or upon, opening, while the complete run of a pub­ lication might be impounded or destroyed. The risks, both legal and financial, were overwhelming and produced a polarized response: works tended to be either innocuous and free of danger, or else, as Wellwarth explains, they tended to be totally committed, written for the author himself or a close circle of friends and reflecting the author’s abandon­ ment of any aspirations about public performances. In twelve chapters Wellwarth presents fourteen of the contemporary playwrights. Each playwright is introduced with a brief biographical note; the chapter consists of a critical analysis of the playwright’s output to date. The first three authors considered are obviously the most im­ portant; all three appeared in Wellwarth’s own anthology The New Wave Spanish Drama (New York: New York University Press, 1970). José Ruibal uses allegory and fantasy in portraying the vicissitudes of contemporary life, most successfully in The Man and the Fly. He creates images which capture the deformations of modern society, similar to those of his Galician predecessor, Ramón del Valle-Inclán, recently “dis­ covered” and now considered not only a powerful influence on con­ temporary Spanish writers but also a link in the absurdist tradition. The 220 Comparative Drama Castilian Antonio Martinez Ballesteros, a more direct writer with less nuance in style but with great control of structure, reveals similarities to O’Neill, Miller, and especially to Brecht. His representative play The Hero comments on the function of the state in creating its heroes through a process of torture and manipulation. José María Bellido’s plays tend to deal with political intimidation and repression through the use of a dominant symbol, often revealed in the title, e.g., Football or Train to H. . . . The author points out that while Bellido may seem static or im­ mature when compared to the allegories of Ruibal or the structures of Martinez Ballesteros, he is nonetheless a careful and accomplished writer. The subsequent chapters deal with apparently lesser, although in some cases quite prolific, dramatists. They are: Juan Antonio Castro, Jeronimo López Mozo, Miguel Romero, Manuel Martínez Mediero, Luis Matilla, Angel Garcia Pintado, Diego Salvador, Miguel Rellán and Eduardo Quiles. Martin Elizondo and José Guevara are treated sepa­ rately in a chapter designated “The Exiles,” since both live in France and write...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 219-221
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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