Out of the Wings

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Hombres en escabeche (1999), Ana Istarú

English title: Select Man, Marinate Until Tender
Date written: 1999
First publication date: 2001
First production date: 2000
Keywords: family > brothers/sisters, family > marriage, family > patriarchy, family > adolescence, power > inter-personal/game play, love > relationships, women > marginalisation of, family > parents and children, women

Dressed as a bride,  Alicia waits in a wedding gown for a suitable man to take the role of her husband.  In this comic odyssey, Alicia learns that she too must act the part of a social-sexual script that dictates the age-old impossibility of fulfilling both the role of ‘la Virgen’ y ‘la Chinga’, the Madonna and the whore. 


The Girl, Alicia, is played as a child, a teenager and an adult by one actress.  The drama which unfolds charts her interactions with seven significant males in her life: her father; her brother, Andrés; her first boyfriend;  her first lover, a philosopher; a City Lawyer;, a Musician; and finally a man she has not met before, a Stranger who shifts a long-established pattern. 

She addresses the audience directly, appealing to us with her confusion and dilemmas concerning what is expected of her as a female, and her own expectations and disappointments in her quest to find a good husband. 

We follow her from her child self who struggles to capture her father’s fleeting attention. He is never able to remember her name and at first she believes if she were to simulate her brother’s behaviour, perhaps she would be more visible to him.  She wonders at how her brother can pee standing up and attempts to imitate him to messy effect.

We see Alicia go through womanly rites of passage, puberty, buying her first bra, menstruation, her first venturing into sexual intercourse, an unplanned pregnancy, and then a miscarriage.

Alicia seems to be trying to address her father’s indifference towards her and towards family life, through all her relationships with men.  But each time she hopes that a new relationship will repair this early experience, she is faced with a repetition of her father’s traits and treatment of her.  She is unable to meet the men’s expectations of her and, equally, they are unable to fulfil hers.

Many times, Alicia encounters the age-old double bind that she must fulfil both the role of the Madonna and the whore, at the same time as being neither. 

Finally, it is the Stranger who arrives dressed as a groom who falls outside the restrictive model of masculinity which Alicia has encountered so far.  He is willing to show vulnerability and share painful past experiences.  At first both bring their emotional baggage to the table, impeding any form of connection or intimacy, but soon their defences fall away and hope about the possibility of men and women having good and meaningful relationships is suggested.   The play ends with a sense that a destructive cycle of patriarchy has been broken.

Critical response

Hombres en escabeche received the Premio Hermanos Machado de Teatro in Seville, Spain, in 1999.

  • Istarú, Ana. 2001. Hombres en escabeche. Sevilla, Ayuntamiento de Sevilla, Area de Cultura y fiestas mayores / Colección Compás

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 16 May 2012.

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