December 3, 2014

I Pronounce You Woman and Wife

On Paloma Pedrero’s Lauren’s Call… (“La llamada de Lauren…”)

It was 1985 when a young female playwright’s short piece opened on the Spanish stage, amazing the
audience with the scene in which a cross-dressed man fervently begs his wife to penetrate him with the help of an artificial penis--

Although Paloma Pedrero cannot exactly be called an author specialized in LGBT-themed fiction, you would point out the titles of Lauren’s Call… and The Color of August (“El color de agosto”) if you had to choose some of her most popular, celebrated plays. In these plays, Pedrero deals with issues such as cross-dressing, homosexuality, and transsexuality. We may discuss The Color of August in the future---Now bells are ringing: it is the time of Lauren’s Call…

This is the story of a young marriage, Rosa and Pedro, whose life is going to experiment a turnaround during the Carnival on their third anniversary.

The choice of Carnival as the time frame of the play seems to me very suitable. Masks are paradoxically useful to unmask the truth. Something similar to what Shakespeare did in As You Like It: Rosalind, in man’s clothes and under the name of Ganymede,[1] makes her beloved Orlando ignore her appearance and woo him as a woman--a courtship she fiercely wants and would have never ever dared to request in her true female appearance (that was a disgraceful behavior for a girl in farthingale times.)[2]

Then, Pedrero gets the man disguised as Lauren Bacall, and the wife disguised as Humphrey Bogart.[3] While Rosa does not feel too comfortably with her male role, Pedro accepts his female part easily. He even tries to role-play with his wife, a game that starts amusingly but ends up bitterly.

From this moment on, Pedro’s memories will emerge, memories of a past in which Family (Society) had aborted any possibility to fulfill himself (that is, herself), suppressing his female side and forcing Pedro to keep on a regular life everybody expected from a man. Traumatic experiences are released and words grow cold, but, when you guess Pedro is going to go back to his old ways, Rosa eventually acts as a friend, helping with the finishing touch of her husband’s costume.

However, this is a bittersweet ending. While Rosa has finally understood and respected Pedro’s necessities, then--what is the point of their marriage now? What is her place? Does she need to play the husband part from now on?

We must take into account that Paloma Pedrero is a feminist author. She especially focuses on female roles, so she clearly feels pity, sympathy, and solidarity for Rosa. Pedrero saves the last scene for her; there, we can see Rosa alone and crying in the dark. Nevertheless, the author has not skipped the dark, ultra-tense situations Pedro has undergone throughout his extremely gloomy life. Up to this point, let him have fun at the costume party.

[1] In Greek mythology, Ganymede is a hot Trojan prince abducted by Zeus, totally mad about the boy. When in Olympus, Ganymede does as the Olympians do, so he becomes immortal and gets a job as the cupbearer of the gods. This myth represents the model of pederasty (sexual relationship between a man and a boy), a social custom permitted in ancient times.
[2] Regarding the question that, in Elizabethan times, women could not be actresses and female roles should be performed by young boys (no need to remind the Academy Award-winning film Shakespeare in Love, I guess…), the ambiguity of this situation is really astounding: in the good old days of the Virgin Queen, the audience could see two men making love freely on stage.
[3] Bacall & Bogart: Paradigm of the Hollywood marriage model, as well as perfect examples of masculinity and femininity standards. Note this play opened in the 1980s, a time when 1940s films like Casablanca, The Big Sleep or To Have and Have Not were much more esteemed than today--

No comments:

Post a Comment