Secrets, pride, fear, expectations, and hypocrisy are exposed with dark humor in Tan sólo el fin del mundo (It’s Only the End of the World); a play where the complexity of family relationships takes on a heartbreaking and sometimes humorous turn (see photos).
Photo by Matt Bostock
Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play tells the story of an artist named Louis who returns home intending to announce his imminent death. He finds his family has been keeping secrets from him and between each other. Instead of listening to Louis, family members each take their turn to deliver passionate monologues on their particular views about the rest of the family and Louis himself. Louis in turn leaves without saying anything about his death.
Louis’ mother wears a conservative black dress reflecting her mourning for Louis’ father, and at the same time foreshadowing Louis’ death. His sister Susan and his sister-in-law Katherine are dressed in skirts and modest blouses, and his brother Antoine echoes an ordinary adult male tired of working too much for too little. The stage, representing the house, is also decorated in a traditionalist and modest way. These peculiarities in dress and decoration give the audience a sense of having been at a similar house, with similar people—perhaps their own home.
The actors deliver an impeccable performance. Louis’ mother reminded me of the stereotypical matriarch of the family: a tired, yet hypocritically cheerful woman, who lives reminiscing about better times when her kids were younger, when she was everything to them. Susan is the classic younger sister who shows unconditional love to the long-gone brother she never got to know. Antoine assumes the role of the brother who thinks everyone expects him to take the place of the diseased father. And Antoine’s wife Katherine is the awkward reflection of a sister and daughter-in-law who wants to be part of the family without offending anyone at the same time.
But out of all the characters, Louis is the most complex and interesting. Although he left his home years earlier to find his own way, he returns in search of solace and love from his family at the hardest time of his life. Instead, he finds that his family is more preoccupied with blaming him for their problems, and at the same time they beg him to help solve them.
Louis turns to the audience to express what is really on his mind, making the viewer an accomplice to Louis’ heartrending struggles. He sheds tears that can give goose bumps even to the most cynical spectator. Yet at the same time, the encounters between the family members are so familiar that they become comical, providing much-needed relief.
Jean-Luc Lagarce wrote Tan solo el fin del mundo five years before he died, at the age of 38 while struggling with AIDS; Louis is 34 in this play and suffers an incurable disease. The resemblance between the author and his main character add significance to a play of great genius to which you will not regret devoting an hour and a half of your week.
Tan solo el fin del mundo (It’s Only the End of the World)
July 9–August 30, Thurs–Sat 20:00
CP$2.000 students and seniors, CP$4.000 general audience
Sala Finis Terrae
Av. Pedro de Valdivia 1509, Providencia
Metro Pedro de Valdivia