Recent winner of Chile’s highest acting honor, the Premio Nacional de Artes de la Representación, actor Ramón Núñez is the main attraction of the play “Enormes Detalles” (Huge Details).
Photo courtesy Teatro de la Universidad Católica
Núñez’s part was written specifically for him by Andrés Kalawski for the Instituto Chileno Britanico de Cultura’s 70th anniversary celebration. With the help of supporting actor Alexei Vergara, Núñez interprets a day in the life of real-life British literary genius Gilbert K. Chesterton as Chesterson writes his next murder mystery.
This play’s British-educated acting duo not only did justice to great British mind, Chesterton, they also put a delightfully effervescent Latin spin on British wit.
Known as much for his humor as for his great mind, Chesterton wrote some 80 books, hundreds of poems and stories, thousands of essays and several plays. A great social and theological philosopher, Chesterton also dabbled in fiction. His most famous fictional character was Father Brown, a priest who solves murder mysteries.
In “Enormes Detalles”, Chesterton is halfheartedly writing a Father Brown mystery at the behest of his editor, but he can’t seem to invent a story without the advice of his brother, Cecil, who is off fighting in World War I.
Instead, Chesterton has to settle for the advice of his butler (Vergara), which he sarcastically disparages, repeatedly remarking aloud to himself, “If only I had someone I could discuss things with.”
The banter between Chesterton and his butler is the best part of this play.
Chesterton’s exasperated quips and the butler’s unwittingly over-the-top antics make for a hilarious straight man/jester duo.
Chesterton and the butler also play off each other ably when they personify the culturally diverse characters of the mystery story—a ruddy British diplomat, his beautiful daughter, a French scientist, a handsome Irishman, an arrogant North American millionaire and, of course, Father Brown. All these players come together at a dinner party at the house of the French chief of police, only to have the party be ruined by a mysterious murder.
The mystery plot is engaging, but the real entertainment in this story comes in the form of two Chileans pretending to be Englishmen who are, in turn, pretending to be Irishmen and Frenchmen—all while speaking in Spanish. It is impossible not to belly-laugh at their spot-on foreign accents and perfectly over-the-top caricatures of each nationality.
Although this play is a comedy for the most part, it also pulls at the heartstrings from time to time. Chesterton’s loss of his brother’s companionship touches on how disorienting it can feel to be without one’s most trusted advisor. These dramatic moments elicit empathy for Chesterton as he tries to come to terms with the great tragedies going on in the world and in his own life.
Short, funny, and peppered with a lovely bittersweetness, maybe even the great cynic himself, Chesterton, would have enjoyed “Enormes Detalles”.