Out of the Wings

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Nina (2002-2003), José Ramón Fernández

English title: Nina
Date written: from 2002 to 2003
First publication date: 2003
First production date: 1 June 2006
Keywords: family > duty, history > memory, love, love > friendship
Title information

José Ramón Fernández entitled Nina after the central character of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull to highlight the influence of this 1895 work on his own play (Fernández: 79).

  • Ramón Fernández, José. 2006. Nina. Madrid, Teatro Español (in Spanish)


Old friends, old places and old memories can be bittersweet when revisited. So Nina discovers when she returns to the small seaside town she grew up in. During a night in a quiet hotel she reminisces about the past with an old friend, Blas. Fuelled by drink, memories turn to love-making, and the sad realisation that life does not always work out the way we hope it will.


Nina takes place over a period of a few hours in a seaside hotel. Esteban, the hotel owner, is watching television in the early hours of the morning when a young woman, one of the few guests out of season, returns from outside. She is soaked and visibly upset. As the mysterious girl goes upstairs to get out of her wet clothes, Esteban realises that she is in fact Nina, a girl from the village who left years ago to become an actress. Esteban telephones Blas, a young father who works for him, who subsequently arrives for his shift. Blas is having marital problems; his wife Maria is having an open affair with another man, Gabi. However, Esteban sees a solution for Blas in Nina’s return. Gabi was once Nina’s lover, so Esteban suggests that were she to stay in the village it might put a stop to Gabi’s interest in Maria. Esteban leaves Blas with the task of trying to convince Nina to remain in the village rather than leaving on the 8.00 a.m. bus that morning as she initially plans to do.

When Nina descends from her hotel room after changing into dry clothes, she is surprised to find Blas working in the bar. They are old friends who used to be part of a gang of young people along with Maria, Gabi and Esteban’s daughter, Nuria. After some initial awkwardness, Nina and Blas are soon reminiscing about their shared past. As they talk, they drink. Eventually, intoxicated, Nina becomes emotional about what she perceives as her failure as an actress. She may have starred in films, but this pales into insignificance when compared to her nostalgic memory of her youth in the village – playing on the beach and listening to Brian Adams on her Walkman. Just as she feels her life has not turned out how she had hoped, she discovers that Blas’s career as a teacher has come to an end. Instead he now works in the hotel, listening to Chet Baker’s jazz hits as he spends his nights away from his family.

As the play progresses and more alcohol is poured, Nina and Blas become more intimate. Nina opens up about her former relationship with Gabi and her affair with Pedro, a writer who subsequently left her for Gabi’s mother. She recalls the loss of her baby with Pedro and the regret she feels at ever having left the village in the first place. Upset, she decides to go down to the sea. In order to stop her, Blas kisses her. The kisses intensify and Blas and Nina end up making love.

Esteban returns to the hotel at dawn. He discovers Nina and Blas asleep in the bar. Esteban is angry at Blas’s behaviour: instead of convincing Nina to stay and reconcile with Gabi, he has complicated his own marital situation. Esteban urges Blas to make a decision about his marriage. Will he leave on the bus with Nina? Or will he stay with Maria? At the end of the play, Blas admits to Nina (and to himself) that his marriage is in trouble. Nina asks if he is coming with her. Forced to make a decision, Blas chooses not to leave with Nina. Instead he resolves to stay and try and work things out with his wife and be a proper father to his child. As they say their goodbyes to one another, both Nina and Blas acknowledge that the paths that they are choosing will be difficult. Nina recalls a scene from the film, Cinema Paradiso, in which the old projectionist, Alfredo, makes his young protégé Salvatore promise that he will never return to the village of his birth. She asks Blas to make her promise the same thing, that she will ‘never return’ to the coastal town of her youth. After he does so, Nina kisses him goodbye and leaves.


Nina explicitly references The Seagull (1895) by Anton Chekhov. In that play Nina Mikhailovna is also a failed actress who has had a doomed love affair with a writer, Trigorin. Like Pedro in Nina, Trigorin returns to a former love – the mother of a friend. Nina and Trigorin in The Seagull had a child who died, and Pedro and Nina had a child who miscarried in Nina.

Nina has three epigraphs. The first is from Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night: ‘But it cannot penetrate her preoccupation. She doesn’t seem to hear him. He gives us helplessly, shrinking into himself, even his defensive drunkenness taken from him, leaving him sick and sober(1995: 152-3). Like Nina the action in this play takes place in the course of a few hours, in this case between 8:30 a.m. and 12 a.m. The quotation conveys a similar sense of impotence – an inability to take action – that is also present in Nina (Serrano Baixauli 2009: 87).

The second epigraph is a quotation by Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), a photographer of Native American Indians. It reads ‘No one wants to listen to the wailing of lost souls’. Ramón Fernández explains that he decided to use this quotation because it conveys the impossibility of being able to share one's sense of desolation with another (2006: 74).

The final epigraph comes from The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. It is the last line of this play and reads ‘The silence that sets in is disturbed only by the thud of an ax striking a tree far away in the orchard' (Chekhov 2003: 251). Serrano Baixauli argues that these three epigraphs exemplify the playwright’s interest in maintaining a connection with what is happening (other literature, events) in the world beyond his play (2009: 87).

There are a number of references to films and music: Lars von Trier’s film, Europa (1991); Annette Bening’s performance in The Grifters (1990); Death in Venice (1971); Cinema Paradiso (1988); Tiempos de azúcar (Sugar Times) (2001). Tiempos de azúcar is a Spanish film about unrequited love between friends.

Nina and Blas reminisce about Blas’s enjoyment of listening to a jazz programme presented by ‘Cifu’. This is the nickname of Juan Claudio Cifuentes who used to present A todo jazz on Spanish National Radio 3.

Nina quotes from Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, ‘bastante no es suficiente’ (literally, ‘enough is not sufficient’), referring to the character Edmund’s line ‘Enough is not as good as a feast’ which he says when told he has had enough to drink. As an actress, Nina performed the role of maid in this play.

  • Chekhov, Anton. 2003. The Four Essential Plays: The Seagull; Uncle Vanya; Three Sisters; The Cherry Orchard, trans. Michael Henry Heim. New York, Modern Library

  • O’Neill, Eugene. 1995. Long Day’s Journey Into Night. London, Jonathan Cape

  • Ramón Fernández, José. 2006. Nina. Madrid, Teatro Español (in Spanish)

  • Serrano Baixauli, Rosa. 2009. ‘José Ramón Fernández: un teatro para y sobre personas’, Stichomythia, 9, 82-8 (in Spanish)

Critical response

Nina has been studied from the point of view of it being a re-interpretation of The Seagull (1895) by Anton Chekov (see Serrano Baixauli 2009).

Nina was awarded the Lope de Vega prize in 2003, before it had even been performed. In general, reviews of performances of the play have been positive. Critics call attention to the importance of good actors to carry the piece and differ in their opinions regarding the efficacy of the echoes of Chekhov’s The Seagull in adding something to the play. Some thought that the action came alive when the allusions to The Seagull were in fact played down and the play was allowed to speak for itself.

  • Serrano Baixauli, Rosa. 2009. ‘José Ramón Fernández: un teatro para y sobre personas’, Stichomythia, 9, 82-8 (in Spanish)

Further information

Information about the editions

In later versions of the play (2006; 2007) Nina is 31 years old. In the earlier 2003 version she is 28 years old. In the 2003 version Nina asks Blas at the end to have a daughter and name her Nina. This line is omitted from later editions.

Useful readings and websites
  • Materna, Linda. 2007. ‘Staging History, Time and Memory: Two Plays by José Ramón Fernández on the 2006 Madrid Summer Stage’, Western European Stages, 19.1

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 13 November 2010.

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