Out of the Wings

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El cepillo de dientes (o náufragos en el parque de atracciones) (1960), Jorge Díaz

The Toothbrush (or Castaways at the Amusement Park), translated by Gwendolen MacKeith

The beginning of the play: ACT ONE

This is the opening of the play.
Sample text

When the house lights have gone down, but before the curtains open, melancholic music played on a harp can be heard. This music will be heard again at various moments in the play. It should be a poignant fragment, simple, evocative, faintly recalling the music of a carousel. The curtains open. The dining room of a small modern apartment. The left half of the room has antique furniture, Spanish style; and the right half has Danish- style furniture, of an ultramodern design. Amidst the furniture on the left- hand side there is a rocking chair and an old gramophone with an enormous horn. The record sleeves of 78s are on top of them. Amidst the furniture on the right- hand side there is a goat skin armchair and a lamp with an aerodynamic lampshade.

Acting as a hinge between the two rooms is a round table draped with a PVC tablecloth which hangs to the floor and completely hides its legs. Two chairs. This is the neutral ground where the daily battle of the matrimonial breakfast takes place. On the table a transistor radio with an aerial is prominent. The stage is empty for a moment. A fragment from a play can be heard coming from the radio.


My love, wake up! ... Look how pretty the amusement park is! It’s a wonderful day!


Just as wonderful as you! (Passionate kisses.)


How can we survive?


Survive what?


This overwhelming love.


We are strong!




Inseparable! (More passionate kisses.)

SHE enters. Young and pretty. Dressed in silk pyjamas, a dressing gown and house slippers. She is carrying a tray, newspaper and magazine under her arm. She puts everything on the table. As she does so, a fork is carelessly knocked to the floor. She looks for another radio station on the transistor and we stop hearing the music of ‘jazz’. Satisfied, she moves her body to the rhythm and leaves again towards the kitchen. The stage is empty for a moment. The ‘jazz’ is very loud. She comes back in. This time with a coffee pot and milk. She sets them on the table and gives finishing touches to the breakfast table. Only now does she notice that one of the forks is on the floor. She picks it up and looks at it intensely.


Last night … Yes, last night I dreamed about a fork. Well, there’s nothing strange about that. It must be an unconscious sexual symbol … (Furrowing her brow.) But the strange thing is that the fork was saying that it wanted to be a spoon. The poor thing had a spoon complex … a dessert spoon complex. Ahh!

Oh, I don’t know why I’m so complicated. The psychiatrist doesn’t either. He told me to talk out loud to myself in the mornings, that it’s good for one’s mental health. It acts as a detox after the night. ‘Imagine’ he tells me ‘that you’re alone on an illuminated stage, before great personalities who are looking at you and nothing matters to you, nothing, nothing. OK, nothing. Ahem …’

She faces the audience with poise and a lack of inhibition from the front of the stage.

‘Mr President, your Excellency, most excellent customary minister, members of the Diplomatic Corp and other corps, Miss Sculptural attaché … Oh Monsignor! ... ’

She bows. Suddenly she starts singing energetically, without the slightest inhibition, a fragment from ‘Madame Butterfly’. From the bathroom comes the unmistakable sound of someone gargling. She tries to drown out the sound by singing louder and glances furiously towards the bathroom, but, finally, she stops and points resentfully towards the bedroom.

I live, I live with a man. At least that’s what they call that creature with big feet who gargles at the most unexpected moments, on a wedding night, for example.

Oh, I am his wife. That is to say I have to be feminine. Which isn’t easy. You have to feel weak, make those puppy-dog eyes so that the creature with the big feet protects you; oh, and you also have to be attractive. I can’t allow myself to grow a moustache or let my teeth fall out. What’s more I have to remember that raviolis put weight on your hips and asparagus shrinks the bust. (Heaving a great sigh.) Oh, but the truth, the truth is I’m tired, terribly tired of being the feminine wife of that masculine animal who scratches himself, systematically loses his hair and, oh, and sings tangos which have gone out of fashion! ... (Dreamy.) Oh, if only … if only I could get fat, smoke a cigar, or become a widow in a painless and elegant way.

The monologue, like psychotherapy, is also good for coming up with ideas, well, innocent ideas like … becoming widowed without anaesthetic. Today, like every day, I have a few surprises in store. To begin with, the coffee isn’t coffee. No. Nor is it Nescafé. It’s poison. Poison which tastes of decaffeinated coffee.

The toast … looks like toast, doesn’t it? No one would say that it isn’t toast. Well, in a sense it is, but I toasted it with hydrogen gas which produces fatal effects to the person on ingestion. (Delighted.) Oh! ... and the sugar! The sugar has got a little bit of granulated rat poison in it. That last part is the sheer virtuosity of a specialist that many will consider excessive, but it is typical of my sense of responsibility.

(Crooning can be heard coming from the bedroom.)


Where did you leave my tie, Marta?

HER: (With a sinister smile.)

It’s time to act! Sh sh. (Shouting towards the bedroom.) Sweetie, breakfast is served! (She sits down and starts buttering a piece of toast. Pause. Louder.) Breeeeeeeakfast is served!

HE enters finishing arranging his tie. He carries his jacket in his hand. He seems to be in a hurry. She turns up the volume on the radio, which goes on playing ‘jazz’. He sits down and opens the newspaper. The ‘jazz’ is very loud. He leaves the newspaper and speaks to her, but only the movement of his lips can be seen because the music drowns him out. This monologue game in which not a word can be heard lasts for a moment.
HER: (Shouting.)

What did you say? I can’t hear a thing!

HIM: (Shouting.)

To turn off that radio!

HER: (Shouting.)


SHE puts an earphone in one of her ears and connects it to the radio. The music can no longer be heard. Now voices are normal.

Poison, please. (SHE doesn’t hear him.) A little coffee, darling. Pssst, what did you say? Pssst.

SHE makes a sign for him to be quiet. She obviously is concentrating on what she is hearing though her earphone.
HER: (In a mysterious tone.)

It’s the forecast.


The forecast of what?

HER: (Almost conspiratorial.)

The weather.

HIM: (A little irritated.)

And what does it say?

HER: (Listening first.)

‘Partial cloud in the rest of the territory … ’

HIM: (Surprised.)

Oh, oh, can that be so?


Yes, yes, it seems incredible, doesn’t it? But it’s true.

She takes the coffee pot, but instead of pouring the coffee she begins to move with it to the rhythm of the music which is suggested by her transported expression and rolled eyes. He, distracted by the newspaper, hasn’t realised that she hasn’t served him coffee. He stirs his empty cup leisurely.

‘Breakfast in your home.’ Recommendations to start the working day. (She listens first and then speaks.) Today is the happy anniversary of the ‘bloody October revolution’ ... So we begin the working day with optimism and energy … We breathe deeply … Ahh (She breathes deeply.) … and we say: ‘Today I can do good deeds for my fellow workers … ’

HIM: (Who hasn’t heard her.)



‘Thinking of others we liberate ourselves from our own worries … ’ And now, you get up and

… one, two, three, four …

… one, two, three, four …

… one, two …

SHE gets to her feet and begins to move her head in a circular motion and then throws her shoulders backwards and forwards and shakes her hands like someone with epilepsy.
HIM: (Alarmed.)

Are you feeling ok?

<a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/"><img alt="Creative Commons License" style="border-width:0" src="http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/88x31.png" /></a><br /><span xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" href="http://purl.org/dc/dcmitype/Text" property="dc:title" rel="dc:type">The Toothbrush (or Castaways at the Amusement Park)</span> by <span xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" property="cc:attributionName">Gwen MacKeith</span> is licensed under a <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/uk/">Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England &amp; Wales License</a>.


The above sample taken from the translation The Toothbrush (or Castaways at the Amusement Park) by Gwendolen MacKeith is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

End of ACT ONE

This is towards the end of the first act.
Sample text
HER and HIM: (Singing a jingle in unison.)

‘A centimetre’s enough
On the family brush,
This toothpaste
Lasts twice as long … ’

HIM: (Reacting.)

I just said that I can’t find my toothbrush this morning!


Oh, you are a slob. (She opens a women’s magazine and reads.) Listen, listen to what Miss Helen has to say, ‘Whichever feature is your best friend in the mirror … ’ (Reading) ‘Whether it’s your complexion, your hair, your teeth, start from here by giving it just that extra magic touch. Above all, keep your teeth free of tartar, nicotine and bits of pork or cod, with frequent use of caustic soda. In this way your boyfriend will say, your boyfriend will say … ’

HIM: (Adoring boyfriend.)

There’s something indefinable which attracts me to you! ... Oh (Annoyed.) Enough, I just said that I couldn’t find my toothbrush this morning!

HER: (Innocent.)

We can ask Miss Helen. I will write to her. She can practically give you back your virginity.


No! I want you to tell me where my toothbrush is.

HER: (Pleasantly condescending.)

But, sweetie … Where do you think it is? In the place it always is: thrown about anywhere.


No, no. This morning it wasn’t there.


Has it occurred to you that it might be in the tooth mug?


No! … but it is not there either.


Strange. You wouldn’t have taken it to the office?


Why would I?


To type with?


But, I’ve got another one for that.


Oh, then, I don’t understand. Do you want me to have a look for it?


Forget it. It’s just perfect. My only personal possession, the very essence of my individuality, has gone missing.


I’m going to look for it. In the meantime, gargle with salt. (She pours water and salt into a glass and then goes out. He starts gargling. Suddenly the woman enters shouting. He, startled, chokes on the salt water and coughs.) He-ey! … I found it! I found it! … Here it is! … Here it is.

With a regretful expression she shows the toothbrush barbarically misused covered in white shoe polish.

No! No! No!

HER: (Timidly.)

Yes, I … I used it yesterday to clean my shoes.

HIM: (Appalled.)


HER: (Confused.)

My shoes … my white shoes urgently needed a little lick of black polish and …


And you didn’t find anything better to abuse than my toothbrush!


No, no, no, no, no, no. First I tried to use the shaving brush, but it got all foamed up.

HIM: (Furious.)

It’s me who’s foaming at the mouth!

HER: (Naively.)

That’s just the salt water.

HIM: (Pathetic.)

This is the appalling reality: in my house there is no toothbrush. It seems incredible, don’t you think? But that’s how it is. (While he talks to the audience pouring pity on himself, she has left towards the bathroom for a moment.) I want to begin my day’s work like a good Christian, but it … it’s not possible when one’s toothbrush has disappeared! I work like a dog all week, and when at the end of a day’s work I get home in search of some kind of distraction, like, brushing my teeth or doing a little bit of knitting … No, it’s not possible! They’ve either been using one’s toothbrush or they’ve hidden the knitting! … No, I don’t think about brushing my teeth every day, nor do I think life’s a stroll in the park … but a day for celebrating is a day for celebrating and even the Trappist monks kick off their shoes once in a while! But not for me, oh no! It’s not possible for me! I must gargle with brine and hide my teeth … yes, it’s a question of human dignity.

HER: (Laughs.)

The grin of the hyena!

HER: (Delighted by the idea.)

But there is one toothbrush!


Which, may I ask?

HER: (Triumphant.)

Mine. It was a wedding present from my father.


You’re not suggesting that I brush my teeth with your toothbrush!


Why not, what’s so special about mine? We’re husband and wife, aren’t we?


But it’s not about that. Don’t talk nonsense.


It’s not nonsense. It’s marriage. Sharing everything: pain, worries, happiness. And, and … well, toothbrushes! Don’t we love each other?


Yes, but not that much.

HER: (Tearful.)

That’s the last thing I expected to hear! (Towards the audience.) Oh, of course, of course … he can share our bedroom with a Frenchwoman , but he can’t share a simple inoffensive domestic implement with his wife …

HIM: (Aloof.)

I want to have my own inoffensive domestic implement.


You didn’t say that before we were married.

HIM: (Towards the audience.)

I never promised to let you use my toothbrush before we were married


You must have done. You loved me.


But it’s not about that. It’s about hygiene.

HER: (Wounded.)

And when I hurt my finger you didn’t think about hygiene. No, you sucked it and said to me ‘Let me kiss it better …’


Oh, I’m tired … I’m tired of listening to you, Mercedes!

In desperation, he goes under the table to the point of completely disappearing covered by the floor length tablecloth. She goes towards the table and beats the tablecloth with her fists.

You are not to call me Mercedes anymore … I don’t want you do call me that under any circumstances … Do you hear? Under any circumstances.

HIM: (Speaking from underneath the table without for a moment being seen.)

I can block you from my sight but I still have to listen to you. Even with your headphones and my old records, I can still hear you! The only place where I can find a bit of peace and quiet is here in my bathroom. Here everything is functional. Here deodorant and talcum powder reign supreme. Here everything is precise. Here you can’t come in … but you have come in and you have stolen my toothbrush!

HER: (Looking remorsefully at the audience.)

Close the curtains, they can hear everything!

HIM: (Poking his head out from underneath the tablecloth.)

I don’t give a damn that they can hear everything. That’s what they’ve paid for.


If you want solitude, stay there in your beloved bathroom … as for me, I’m going to live with my mother.


Don’t be melodramatic, darling. You know perfectly well that your mother lives with us.

HER: (Shouting.)

Oh!, I can’t take it anymore! I hate you! I’m sick of the brand of your cigarettes and the sound of your guts when you drink Coca Cola! Go away! We’ll never get back to the way it was before!


Little hysterical slapper.














I am going to start to shout …


Shout and scream! …

She starts to shout like a mad woman. He comes out from under the table and stands up enraged.

Be quiet, Marta!

He draws near to her. He takes the radio from the table and with a rapid movement, passes the long cable of the radio round the woman’s neck. Then he begins to tighten it until it silences her. The woman falls to the floor. The man looks at her for a moment. He’s panting. Then he takes her under the arms and drags her with difficulty in the direction of the bedroom. For a moment the stage is empty. He reappears. Now he’s not panting at all. He whistles a tango. He has a black tie in his hand. He looks at himself thoughtfully and takes off his coloured tie to replace it with the one for mourning. He whistles a tune. He sits, serves himself more coffee. As he drinks, he reads aloud the headlines from a newspaper with smaller print than before.

‘School girl raped by sinister teacher of dead languages …’ ‘Two actors violently beat our theatre critic …’ Well done. ‘Woman, strangled by her furious husband …’ (Pays more attention to this last one and continues reading.) ‘The body of a beautiful woman was found yesterday, the victim of a cowardly attack. There was evidence of strangulation by the cable of a battery powered radio. The situation seems quite complex despite its apparent simplicity. These are the facts: at 8.30 in the morning, the woman who was doing the cleaning in the flat and who is reportedly called Antona, repeatedly rang the bell. When no one answered, she used her own key and went in. She asked if there was anyone at home so as not to interrupt anything and she heard a voice say: “Come in, Antona …” She found the man of the house buttering a piece of toast while the body of the poor woman lay in the bedroom.  The statements which the husband made to the police were inconsistent …

He stops reading from the newspaper and speaks directly to the audience. He loosens his tie and adopts the weary air of a suspect in a police interrogation.

Yes, I killed her. At least, the person who is lying there in the bedroom is the woman I killed. And I know very well why I did it. You would all have done the same if you had found a strange person taking over your house, using your pyjamas and your toothbrush. Do you understand? … She was everywhere. Inexplicably I found her at the table at breakfast, eating my toast; I found her in the bathtub; when I was shaving, there she was, in the mirror, putting cream on her face or plucking her eyebrows. I found her, sometimes when I woke in the night I found her, I found her in my own bed. It got on my nerves. But ladies and gentlemen … Who did I kill? The woman in the mirror? The woman who I sometimes found in my bed and who seemed so similar to the woman I married five years ago? The woman in the bathtub? The woman of the battery-powered radio? The woman who I was just now beginning to fall in love with? Or, was it ‘Lady Hope’ whom I had written to at Central post-office? ...

I don’t know. Strange things scare me and what was happening now, like finding my dentures inside the trainers of an unknown woman, was more than I could bear. You have all seen it; my Gardel records fill with dust because she refused to dance tango. I could cry for hours listening to them. But not her. She could only suffer with a quartet of modern ‘jazz’. And what’s to be done when one person gets all nostalgic when they hear the accordion, while the other person only does when they hear a trumpet? … And if two people can’t cry together over the same things, what else can you do? … It’s in your hands, ladies and gentlemen! But remember that all of us, all of us have a toothbrush … !

He sits down again and ties his tie. He adopts the previous manner, carefree, almost smiling. He takes the newspaper and reads aloud in a neutral tone of voice.

‘These were his statements. The police think this is typical of a crime of passion. They seek a third person, possibly a French woman. Tomorrow we will be able to give more information.’ (He stops reading the newspaper.) Oh, same old, same old …! This sensationalist press is getting more and more morbid. It’s the poison of the people … reality, real life is much more boring.

He starts to spread jam on a piece of toast. The door bell of the apartment rings. Silence. The doorbell rings again in an insistent way. Silence. The familiar sound of a key in the lock and then the creaking of the door opening. Steps.

Can I come in?


Come in, Antona, the corpse is in the same place it always is! …

The curtains close.



The above sample taken from the translation The Toothbrush (or Castaways at the Amusement Park) by Gwendolen MacKeith is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 5 October 2010.

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