The Black Continent (El continente negro)
translated by Prof. Charles Philip Thomas
El continente negro (The Black Continent) is a portrait of post-Pinochet Chile which marked the beginning of a much more experimental stage in theatre works by de la Parra. According to de la Parra, this play ``was inspired by stories by Raymond Carver; Balthus, Edward Hopper and Antonio López paintings, as well as certain films by Tarkovski, Bergmann, Rohmer, Altman. It seems to be a series of short works, but it is just one.'' The play is also in the manner of a ``thriller'' or mystery movie, exploring relationships, discussing implied infidelities, secret meetings, phone calls, a planned journey (or escape?).
`(A transposition to a romantic song. The telephone rings. NATALI A enters smoking like a fiend. The volume is turned down. She's pretty sometimes. MARCELO enters from behind, somewhat uncomfortably, through a shadow in the semi-darkness. He almost can't be seen. Calm, distant, withdrawn. She prepares a glass with ice and tonic water. He enters and exits the room.)
NATALIA I don't intend to answer. They always call. Five times and they hang up. In the beginning I used to answer. They used to ask for a person named Mónica. It sounded far away, as if it were the ends of the earth. At any time. Mónica? Mónica?... They've continued calling since then. Five times. The same, always. Do you want a drink?
MARCELO No, thanks.
NATALIA No? Are you sure? I have whisky, vodka. You used to like vodka. I don't drink any more. (She shows her glass.) Just tonic water. Smell it if you don't believe me. I haven't touched alcohol for a long time. Really. How are you, Marcelo?
NATALIA I'm fine, too. I'm singing again. I've even gained some weight. A lot of people find me better than before. What so you think?
MARCELO What do you want, Natalia?
NATALIA So direct and to the point... Just like always. Well... First of all I wanted to see you. You're a super love for having come. You're wonderful, besides. Seriously. Well, just like always. (A pause.) How's Luna?
NATALIA Great. What about Charli?
MARCELO Good, very good.
NATALIA How old is Charli now?
NATALIA Wow! Time goes by so fast. Eight years. So many things have happened in eight years. (A pause.) And Luna, Marcelo?
MARCELO I don't have a lot of time, if you're interested, Natalia.
NATALIA Just like always, right? An important man is a busy man, with his head always somewhere else... Or maybe you're wife won't let you see me? Did you tell her?
MARCELO I didn't think it was necessary.
NATALIA Oh... (A pause.) Then this is a secret meeting... I love clandestine encounters. They're magical, Marcelo. (The telephone rings.) Again. Count them up. Five times. I've even thought about changing the number. It's unbearable...
MARCELO Why did you call me?
NATALIA There has to be a reason, right? There are so many things going on. In the clinic, now, the other day, the last time, I thought about you a lot, you know? When we used to study, when we cut classes... It's good to have memories, Marcelo. Something that doesn't disappear at least. I've thought about you a lot. A lot. It was very intense... Do you remember? Awesome, isn't that right? (With dissonant tenderness.) Have you ever made love again like you used to with me? I bet not. That night on the beach, the moon was like a large sun. I found out right away that I got pregnant. (A pause.) What happened to us, Marcelo?
MARCELO You're the one who left, Natalia.
NATALIA Yes, I know that. What a crazy lady. I've told that to Patricio... Don't believe it. I don't know, I thought I was in love. It was all so... so... intense... the Boris deal... Oh... I was so young. Besides, I was smoking my brains out, do you remember? Patricio tells me I was totally confused. I thought desire and reality were the same. Do you understand me?
MARCELO Who's Patricio?
NATALIA My doctor. I see him three times a week.
MARCELO Who pays for you?
NATALIA Not a clue. God provides. It would even do you some good to go every once in a while. Why haven't you ever done anymore theatre, Marcelo? You were good. Really good.
MARCELO Is it money that you need, Natalia?
NATALIA No, I've never needed money. You know that. Never. I haven't changed in that way. I need something else. Something very different. Love, Marcelo. L-o-v-e. I've been so lost. (A pause.) You're going to think it's real foolish, but I can't manage to forget you, Marcelo. (A pause.) I've changed, Marcelo. The only thing I want to do is to be at home, I want to have a family. No more tours... or trips... or photos. Breakfast, eating together, watching TV.. You were right, Marcelo. I was the one who was lost... I... Did you know they called me from the station?
MARCELO No, I didn't know.
NATALIA They're going to wait for me. They want me to come back. It's not a stellar role, but they think I can do it well. I told them that on doctor's orders I couldn't do anything real demanding and they still agreed to it. They even might interview me for CARAS magazine. On the cover... Would you let them take a picture of me with the kids?
MARCELO Is that why you called me?
NATALIA It's a photo, nothing more. It's not definite but they told me that maybe they'd do something. And in that case... I think it would be very important, it's a part of my life.
MARCELO You know I don't like you going out with Luna and Charli.
NATALIA I understand but... it's just one picture... Marcelo... please , forgive me...
MARCELO You haven't seen them in four years, Natalia. (She rubs her face. Upset.)
NATALIA Yes, yes I know. But... I think about them... I've always thought about them. This has been like waking up again... Don't they maybe ask about me?
MARCELO Not any more, Natalia.
NATALIA My God, this is so hard. You probably won't believe me but I'm looking at you now and it's as if time had not gone by. Think about it. It would be good for everyone. Luna, Charli, the four of us, like it should be, how it should have always been: going to take them to school, feeling us, having us. Don't you miss me?... You don't?... Couldn't it be possible for us to be a family... again...?
MARCELO So we can be shown in pictures for CARAS magazine?
NATALIA No, really... I'm telling you the truth... I look back on things and the only good thing was you... and the kids... I'm a lot better... Really... You'll probably say that I'm crazy but I know that we're going to get old together. I'm sure... Marcelo?
MARCELO You're crazy, Natalia.
NATALIA Look at me. We're still young. Well, not like before but... we're okay... (A pause. MARCELO becomes restless.)
NATALIA I'm not asking us to run off to the jungle, or go to live at the ends of the earth. Think about it. This is not a crazy idea. (The phone rings.)
NATALIA That imbecile is going to drive me crazy. Can you answer, please?
MARCELO This isn't my house.
NATALIA (she answers abruptly) Hello? No, my name is not Mónica! No! (She hangs up violently. She tries to control her nerves.) Are you sure you don't want a drink? No? Marcelo...
MARCELO I have to go, Natalia.
NATALIA Can't you stay with me? Tonight?
MARCELO I agreed to pick up Luna at a friend's house...
NATALIA You can come back...
MARCELO (he takes out his checkbook) There's no reason to continue with this conversation, Natalia:
NATALIA Think about it, at least, think about it. Once...
(MARCELO writes a check.)
NATALIA Marcelo? Marcelo?...
MARCELO I'm leaving.
(He hands her the check.)
NATALIA What's happening?
(MARCELO leaves without answering. NATALIA follows him, controlling her anger very badly. She talks to him from the stairway.)
NATALIA That's the same old strategy, huh? You always make me feel stupid. You always leave. Don't you? (The sound of a door slamming shut.) You always leave me. You've never understood me. I was always... alone... (She pauses. She plays with the check. The phone rings. She answers.)
NATALIA Hello? (She listens.) No, my name is not Mónica. (She listens.) I already told you that my name is not Mónica. No, never. No, I'm fine like that. No. Well... well... well... Goodbye.(She hangs up. The phone rings again. She puts the check away.) Poor guy.
(The volume of the music increases.)
(A transposition to a bathroom. Maybe a different one.