Theater Plays

In the Park – by Reynaldo Fernández Pavón

Existentialism, Death and Light

Critical review by Manuel Gayol Mecías – Writer, journalist, and editor. UNEAC Short Story Award 1992. For

In the park. Theater Play by Reynaldo Fernández Pavón.
In the park. Theater Play by Reynaldo Fernández Pavón.

I have read the libretto of this Play four times, and little by little I have been erasing the strangeness of not finding the logic within it. From a rational or realistic perspective, it does not seem to make sense what the two central characters say and do (Jacinto and Rebecca); Maybe you must see his staging and so… well, everything would become more evident, of course. However, upon reading the libretto of the play, and establishing a critical review, a priori of the staging, I feel a great rapport with it; I shudder just from reading it.

It seems to me that there is great depth, a penetrating impact, very vital images within the play despite the symbolic elements. I also find an unfolding of characters in its two protagonists (or rather agonists?), that not only hold a dialogue with each other, but also, and fundamentally, they do it towards a silent and invisible audience that the protagonists believe are there sitting in their seats, but this invisible audience is nothing more than a resource to allow future spectators to meditate, reflect.

This is really a work that leads to forced meditation. And the audience is silent, expectant, it seems to be passive with its silence; but no, you can really perceive the symbols that represent these two main characters, and that other corporeal and future audience that will then understand the general symbolism of the staging, of course, because I know / we know that this play will one day be performed. Something magical emanates from this little masterpiece, which is not so small, but a huge and fascinating existential problem.

I like how the two main characters develop; I imagine each of them playing the role of Jacinto’s mother or Rebecca talking with her own mother, something that takes place through the girl’s hallucinations (obsessive compulsive, schizophrenic?). I imagine Rebecca also doing a profound monologue for two, her face undergoing a total transformation just considering the changes in vocal tone and the transformation of her facial expressions; because Rebecca, and Jacinto when he speaks like her father, would have to vertiginously mutate her facial expressions from her own character to another, and they both would have do this in a truly short time. Difficult task of portraying a split personality for both characters.

The chorus sounds like a Greek chorus, as if it were a kind of destiny imposed on both characters. But the chorus is also the voice of the dictatorship that was left behind. The two chorus soloists give me the impression of being a contradiction of the unconscious, in fact a contradiction of the same chorus, let us say. I know that it is a play within a play not only because both Jacinto and Rebeca expect it to be, but also because the atmosphere of the scenes infers it: it is theater within the theater, but it is also life within death. They are like deceased people hidden in the night; in the night sitting in a park that is the center of the world. The mixed-race Jacinto and white-skinned Rebeca do not yet understand their own desire to live. And out of that restrained desire they try to make a play despite death.

[YouTube video] Music theme of the play In the park by Reynaldo Fernández Pavón.

But then to reach this country and drag the prejudice of racism, where the problems stop being political to become social conflicts; even when we are living in the 21st century, third millennium of the supposed Christian era. Is this not mind-boggling? It is a frustrating nightmare that reveals us that life, in its corporeal reality controlled by social backwardness, is worse than the death of a couple overcome by the social order of the world. That is why, in the world’s imagination, dramas such as the biblical one of Adam and Eve, or the romantic one of Romeo and Juliet, continue to be of outstanding importance.

They are two souls who love each other but suffer greatly because they cannot give love in their current existence. Maybe they depend on their ancestors. They, Jacinto, and Rebecca, are deceased, homeless people, who still drag the conflicts of the lives they endured, and this becomes “a collective syndrome, [Jacinto and Rebecca] deprived of finding a way out, wander around like unrecognizable bodies.” I cannot stop feeling and seeing images of daily life in Cuba; nor of other people who fall into alienation because of their unbearable memories of life in our society.

In fact, they are in Central Park in New York, and it is – of course – as if they were in the center of the planet; but a place from which they cannot escape until dawn, which is when death stops being death to become life; and it is then that they will disappear definitively. However, dawn here, in the end, also translates into death. Perhaps suicide? And then it is when we realize that death turns out to be a liberation; death in the light of day is the true existence, in which their souls can find their greatest passion, the most coherence, their most intelligent way of existing. Only love will allow them to find the “action” and the “end” to their own play. The two main characters are alone, as if they were one of the many representations that could symbolize the existential fatality of Cubans, or any other human being on Earth.

THE END and the curtain closes.