Written and Sealed: Dramaturgical Transcendence of Isaac Chocrón (Part I)
One of the most important writers of 20th century Venezuelan theater was Isaac Chocrón(1930-2011). He produced a very broad dramaturgical work, daring, with a social but also existential content, with an ironic style often reaching humor, and often from an autobiographical perspective. I made an analytical and interpretative work of one of his last works, Written and sealed, which I wanted to share with you, dear @ADSactly readers.
(...) we begin to set priorities, to select, to strip away
of everything superfluous that takes time away from everything essential.
Little interests us, but that little now interests us.
truly. Whoever assumes all these responsibilities
will achieve the necessary and refined simplicity (...)
An initial look
Isaac Chocrón's play Written and sealed (1993) is, from my point of view, a milestone in the dramaturgical maturity of this important Venezuelan writer. This text by Chocrón is a point of arrival in which the purification of his theatrical production is expressed; an essentiality of form and a depth of content is noticed as the decantation of a journey. Hence the achieved transcendence of his theater.
The specialized critics of Chocrón's dramatic production had appreciated in the 80's a "flexibilization of the form with the consequent increase of the expressive possibilities", and an experimental process "that ends in expressive synthesis", emphasizing the agile, sharp and direct character of his language. Such traits continue to manifest themselves in Written and sealed, especially in the simplicity of the formal resources that characterize it and in the use of a precise and effective dialogue. Criticism had also observed the central presence of two aspects of content: the sadness and loneliness of its characters, but also the incorporation of a concern towards the collective, towards "the community", as a way of concretizing that "dense and original reflection on man's being and destiny". In Written and sealed the individual and the collective coexist tensely: the loneliness and sadness of the individual are transformed by the solidarity and grace offered by friendship, the coexistence with the "chosen family", as Chocrón liked to say.
The work and its components
Before entering into the concrete treatment of the text, let us look at the argumental synthesis of the play: Saúl, a university theatre professor, has travelled, on his sabbatical year, to Albuquerque (a city in the southern United States), invited by the university of that city. The real reason for the trip is to spend his mourning for the death, due to AIDS, of a close friend, Luis, who was a photographer. In that city he meets an old friend, Miguel, who was an actor and is now a Catholic priest, and who is also ill with AIDS. In the interaction with Miguel, with the interventions of Luis, present through memory and affection, Carmen, the domestic who traveled with the teacher, and Nancy, his assistant, a transformation takes place in Saúl: the encounter with himself and with faith.
Like other previous works by Chocrón, Written and sealed is divided into two parts, and these, in turn, into scenes, eight in total. The division into scenes seems to be related to an internal structure of a temporal nature and a consequent semantic function, based on the meeting and permanent dialogue of the characters.
The eight scenes will be marked in their beginnings by music: the second movement (Adagio cantabile) of Beethoven's Sonata Nº 8 ("Pathetic") (you can listen to it in this link). There is a correspondence between the external structure of the work, the subdivision and distribution of the selected movement of the sonata, and the atmosphere and tone of what happens. The adagio is characterized by being a slow, serene and collected musical movement; moreover, in this case, it is inscribed within a composition that already by its name, the "Pathetic", reaffirms the sense of emotional commotion expressed by the musical fragment. The rhythmic and subjective cadence of the music marks the tone of the work, revealing an interiority in process, the one lived by the characters.
The specificity of the scenographic space as a closed and interior place (Saúl's apartment), contrasts with the space outside, only alluded to in the dramatic dialogue: the open space of the Albuquerque desert. In addition, it is a unique space, in which the meeting of the characters will be concentrated; here another significant contrast: the uniqueness of the physical space as opposed to the internal mutability of the characters. This significant feature is reinforced by the frugality of the set, accessories and lighting, signifiers of great relevance to the atmosphere and vision of Written and sealed.
A white cyclorama, a round table, four chairs and two terrace loungers make up the scenography. Such elements contribute to the figuration of the simple and essential ambience pointed out. The accessories will compose a space inhabited by a certain redundancy, empty spaces where affection and interior dispossession act. To which the colours - "black, grey and white as in the black and white photographs", is added-, which symbolise the central content of the work, communicating the predominant aesthetic conception represented in the photograph.
edited by Centro Cultural Consolidado.
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Castillo, S. (1980). Uprooting in Venezuelan theatre. Venezuela: Edit, Ateneo de Caracas.
Chocrón, I. (1993). Written and sealed. Venezuela: Ex Libris.
Monasterios, R. (1990). A Critical Approach to Venezuelan Theatre (2nd ed.). Venezuela: Edit. Monte Ávila.