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Deja que los perros ladren; Vina (Let the dogs Bark; Vina).

Although Sergio Vodanovic has long been one of Chile's most respected playwrights, his works have been practically unobtainable, even in Santiago. The Pehuen edition makes available two of Vodanovic's best known works, Deja que los perros ladren (1959) and Vina (1964), both extremely popular in the sixties and still performed in Chile and elsewhere. (The first of the two was made into a movie.) An overview of Vodanovic's contribution to the Chilean stage by Juan Andres Pina follows the text, and a bibliography of the playwright's work through 1990 brings the book up to date.

Deja que los perros ladren offers a critical look at Chilean society and institutions. Esteban, a lawyer by profession, is head of the Department of Health, a position that his father held before him. Guided by a sincere respect for the law, Esteban has carried out his duties honestly and efficiently for years but has never made a fortune. While his wife admires his high moral character, Octavio, his son, is beguiled by the lure of material benefits.

A crisis occurs when the Minister, an old school friend of Esteban, asks him to declare unhealthy the working conditions at an opposition newspaper so that the government can close it down. If Esteban fails to comply, he will lose his job. Although he struggles with his conscience, Esteban, supported by his wife and finally his son, decides to take a stand against the corrupt government. "Let the dogs bark," Esteban tells Octavio, for the insults and threats of the Minister's pawns will only serve as a stimulus to reform.

Although the corruption Vodanovic describes is still rampant throughout Latin America, today Deja que los perros ladren, with its complete lack of humor and classical structure, seems outdated and simplistic.

Vina, on the other hand, demonstrates that in the sixties the author was beginning to experiment structurally. This dramatic work consists of three short plays "to be performed in bathing suits." In El delantal blanco (The White Apron), a spoiled, vacuous upper class woman who is spending the last days of summer at the beach at Vina de Mar, decides to switch clotches with her maid. Once the maid becomes the "senora," she heaps abuse on her employer, who is then unable to convince passers-by of her true identity. In La gente como nosotros (People Like Us), a stripper, a gigolo, and an older, middle-class couple are stranded on a road outside of Vina. As the two social outcasts discuss their problems (poverty, lack of opportunity, social disenfranchisement), their authenticity begins to contrast sharply with the sham of respectability of their fellow travellers, who, little by little, reveal their frustrations and the emptiness of their marriage. Las exiladas (The Exiles) depicts an elderly, upper class invalid, Hortensia, who is outraged at the incursions of riffraff into the best areas of the beach, and her spinster daughter, Emilia, who longs to romp with the boisterous lower classes. Shortly after the younger woman vents her resentment of her mother's stifling value system, two hooligans appear and tease Emilia mercilessly. In the meanwhile, Hortensia dies. However, it is now too late for Emilia to emancipate herself. Instead, she takes her mother's place in the wheelchair, a symbol of the pscyhologically crippled bourgeoisie and its confining, repressive codes.

Although Vina deals with the now conventional themes of class struggle and the degeneration of the upper echolons of society, its sardonic humor and innovative structure show a definite evolution in the author's style. Vodanovic's early works are historically significant contributions to the development of Latin American theater. Furthermore, the study of Deja que los perros ladren and Vina is indespensible for the comprehension of the development of Vodanovic, still an active playwright. Pehuen is to be commended for making these plays readily available to the general public.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Organization of American States
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mujica, Barbara
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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