I’m a visitor too. We’re both telling the truth. Why would we want to lie? So, either we’re both inside without realizing it, or we both live outside, free, and we meet here every week to exchange apples, strawberries and words of encouragement.
Every Saturday an old man and old woman meet on opposite sides of a metal grille. Where are they? Is this a prison, an asylum or an old people’s home? Neither the old man nor the old woman seems to know, nor are they sure of who is visiting whom, or why. This couple (husband and wife?) engage in a conversation which repeats itself, falls silent, goes nowhere. And yet there is a struggle to find meaning in the maelstrom of these confused dialogues. In this powerful and poignant play, the characters wait endlessly without the hope of knowing what it is they are waiting for, but, at the heart of the confusion, there is the possibility of love. When all else fails, the power of the imagination to invent a reality makes it possible to live less close to death.
The stage is divided by a metal grille, with a wooden bench on either side. A shrill bell sounds and an old man and old woman take their positions, facing each other, sitting on the benches either side of the divided stage. At first there is silence but then a disoriented conversation begins which will lead us through ambiguous territories. This old man and old woman seem to believe that they meet every Saturday in this unspecified place which resembles some kind of an institution - a prison, a hospital, an asylum or a home for the elderly and infirm. Each is convinced that it is they who is visiting the other, although neither seems to really know where they are and why they are there. There is no apparent social reality to which this couple belongs, and they share the growing fear that they may be repeating the same conversation time after time. And yet this conversation carries the urgency of a communication between husband and wife for whom it is vital to establish the certainties of their history: have they ever lied to each other, hated each other, hit each other? Did they ever make love, have children? Fantasy and reality blur in the striking poetic images evoked as they struggle to prove who is visiting whom and to retrieve their shared memories.
Distant by virtue of their age and infirmities from the possibility of action, they use the only means available to them to create a past, and to inject their present with a sense of future. At the end of the play the woman tells the man that she is not in fact Elisa, his wife, that she has been posing as Elisa all this time – but also that she loves him. She remains sitting there, closes her eyes and falls silent and unresponsive. This produces profound anguish in the man as he faces her absence. If the stage is a waiting room, the audience cannot help but wonder if what this man and woman have been waiting for is, in fact, death.
Jorge Díaz is widely recognised as one of Chile’s most prestigious playwrights of the second half of the twentieth century.
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Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 5 October 2010.