The Dead Father (El Padre Muerto
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Chile
translated by Prof. Charles Philip Thomas
CAST: 4 men 1 woman
SETTING: An artist's studio in New York
The play begins with two confusing events: Roberto dressed in drag killing ``a'' Father, and then the news that Roberto's mother died in Chile and his Father is travelling to join Roberto in Madrid. Who has Roberto actually killed? Further events bring on greater confusion, designed to obliterate the notions of individual, space and time identities. The ``dead'' Father later on reappears to lament having abandoned Roberto and to praise his paintings, which are nothing more than empty canvases; Roberto commits suicide by throwing himself through a window, only to appear again saying he was out shopping in preparation for his Father's impending visit; Roberto is then killed by Tony with a drug overdose; the Father appears to lament Roberto's new death, to denounce his liaison with Tony, now revealing his heroic political past had really been a hoax; Roberto reappears to stage a scene of jealousy with Sonia; Roberto and his Father get together to forgive each other, then the Father kills Roberto at a hospital while the son waits for an operation.
The plot of The Dead Father ``seems'' to revolve around the ``actual'' tribulations of Roberto Belmas (``Rob'' for everyone but the Father), a megalomaniac young Chilean painter living in New York, who wants to be a ``genius.'' He has great difficulty in fulfilling the quota of paintings contracted with Saul, the owner of a gallery who is marketing Roberto's work. Roberto feels his freedom is being restrained by his lover, Sonia, who reproaches him for not being able to keep a steady job. Roberto finds refuge in Tony, a homosexual who, in order to seduce him, provides Roberto with drugs and an understanding ear. Yet a deeper explanation to his problem ``seems'' to be his feelings of having been betrayed by his Father, who abandoned Roberto when he was a child, to pursue the career of a professional communist revolutionary. In retribution, Roberto wants to totally dissociate himself from the past.
Are these Roberto's nightmares or psychotic incidents? In line with de la Parra's other works, it can be posited that the Father is an unreal image, a haunting phantom representing the Primordial Father. As an archetype of human history He does not need to incarnate Himself in any particular individual. He is all of them and none of them, generating all the suffering, aversion, love, challenge and encouragement that go into the creation of concrete human destinies. In this sense, The Dead Father is an extreme allegory of a human being trying to express his creative capacity through the conflict between the phylogenetic history of the species and the ontogenetic individual experience, at the same time trying to stage a Nietzschean revolt against it by casting away and destroying all ties to history and the Reality Principle. In the end the phantom of the Primordial Father has more life than real human beings.
(Summary by Hernán Vidal, University of Minnesota)
Marco Antonio de la Parra
Works in Translation