Out of the Wings

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Los invasores (1962), Égon Wolff

English title: The Invaders
Date written: 1962
First production date: 1962
Keywords: violence > social, identity > class/social standing, identity > hierarchy, history > change/revolution, ideology > morality, ideology > politics, power > inter-personal/game play, Social > Hierarchy

Class war is played out in a dream-like sequence in the home of an indifferent bourgeois family.  Guilt and fear govern this surreal encounter between a rich Chilean industrialist and a workers’ uprising.


‘As the play begins, Lucas Meyer and his wife arrive home from a party and begin to talk animatedly of their happiness and of the role wealth has played in bringing it about. Pietá, Meyer's wife, soon interjects a note of anxiety, however, by mentioning her fear that their happiness might not be as secure as it would seem. Her immediate concern, she continues, stems in part from several recent, disquieting events involving the harapientos of the city. That very evening, for

example, she had seen some of them moving about in the shadows, while a few days earlier the janitor of the school their son attends had built a bonfire with the coats of the students and no one had dared reprimand him for it. Meyer attempts to dismiss his wife's anxiety by assuring her that the poor are completely harmless and that ’el mundo está perfectamente bien en sus casillas’ (p. 131).

The two then exit via the stairway and the stage lights dim.

Moments later a window pane is broken. A hand reaches in, unlocks the

window, and through it enters a man dressed in rags but wearing an immaculate stiff white collar and a carnation. Meyer, hearing the commotion, comes down and threatens to shoot the intruder if he does not leave immediately. The latter, who we soon learn is China, makes no effort to go, but rather softly chides Meyer for making threats he cannot carry out.

When Meyer discovers that he, in fact, cannot bring himself to pull the

trigger, he asks for the man's identity. China responds: "Me llaman 'China,' y usted es Lucas Meyer el industrial. . . . Y ahora que hemos cumplido con esta primera formalidad, puede irse a la cama, si quiere. . . . Comprendo que es suficiente para usted para ser el primer encuentro. Que Dios acompañe a usted y a su bella esposa, en su sueño. . . . Buenas noches" (p. 135). Meyer, full of outrage, again resorts to futile threats, and he at last becomes so exasperated and unnerved by China's mystifying confident manner that he relents and says that he may sleep there that night but must leave early the next morning. Meyer

then exits again.

Shortly thereafter Toletole, China's girlfriend, enters through the window and, as before, the entrance is heralded by the appearance of a hand in the window. China admonishes Toletole for not waiting until the next day, as they had agreed, but she exclaims that it is too cold to sleep in the doghouse and that the person with whom she was to share it kept pushing her out. Meyer, hearing new noises, comes back down, and it is at this point that fear clearly begins to take hold of him—fear of either a general invasion by the harapientos or of an attack on him and his family by some of these people. The concern about a personal attack springs from a deep-rooted sense of guilt over having secretly

murdered a partner years before in order to gain complete control of the business they had shared. Even though the death has been ruled a suicide, Meyer still fears that the partner's family, which has been left destitute, may seek revenge.

The entire city, we discover, has been invaded even though within the play Meyer's house serves as the focal point for the invasion. […]

Meyer, whose resistance has already been weakened by his feelings of fear and guilt and by isolated appearances of [three strange] figures […] falls completely apart when all of them come before him at once accompanied by grotesque projections and a haunting chorus. Convinced now that China and his friends are wreaking vengeance for the death of the partner, and unable to bear any further torment, Meyer shouts, in utter desperation: "¡Basta . . . Basta! ¡Yo lo maté! ¡Yo lo maté!" (p. 188)

At this point Pietá calls out to him to ask what is wrong, and we discover that all has been a nightmare. Meyer, when he realizes he has been dreaming, feels great relief, but is still somewhat troubled by how real everything seemed. He tells his family that it was just a foolish dream, so foolish, in fact, that he had even dreamed that their son's coat had been burned in a bonfire by the school janitor. This comment by Meyer, however, astounds his son Bobby, who exclaims that it actually had been burned the day before. As the play ends, Meyer and his family are staring at each other in stunned silence as we see a hand appear at

the window, knock out a pane, and begin to manipulate the lock.’

From Leon F. Lyday.  1972.  'Egon Wolff's Los invasores: A Play within a Dream', Latin American Theatre Review, VI:1, 19–26

Critical response

Los invasores is considered to be one of Égon Wolff’s masterpieces. 

  • Wolff, Egon. 1964. Los invasores. In Teatro hispanoamericano contemporáneo, ed. Carlos Solórzano. México, Colección popular

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Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 18 April 2012.

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