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Calling All Anglophiles!

Alan Bennett photo illustration

By Phoebe Greyson

In the opening lines of playwright Alan Bennett’s Waiting for the Telegram, an elderly woman in a wheelchair leans forward conspiratorially. In a voice laced with excitement and with the particular crackling of the very old, she confides:

 

I saw this feller’s what-do-you-call-it today. Except I’m not supposed to say “what do you call it.” Verity says. “Violet, ‘what-do-you-call-it’ is banned. When we cannot find the word we want, we describe; we do not say ‘what-do-you-call-it.’”

Well,” proclaims our nonagenarian character, as if stating the obvious, you won’t catch me describing that.”

Waiting for the Telegram is one of 13 thirty-to-forty-minute monologues written for the BBC between 1982 and 1998, five of which (above included) will be performed at the San Miguel Playhouse, Av Independencia 82, between September 20 and 23.

If you are a fan of dry, understated, British wit, you will love these monologues. They are simultaneously poignant, sad, and (occasionally) hysterically funny. Bennett has an uncanny ability to articulate the tragic, quietly desperate internal dialogue of ordinary people. His characters are mesmerizing in their intransigent refusal to perceive their circumstance as anything but business as usual. We hear no railing against the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” from them. Everything is simply the way it is. Like the three-legged dog, they soldier on, failing to notice that something is awry.

In Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet, for example, a middle-aged store clerk seeking solace from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for her disabled brother finds herself unwittingly drawn into a decidedly unorthodox financial arrangement with her chiropodist, who plies her with shoes that she can wear to “mark time on his bottom.” Says New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley, “There’s a faint cry of self-awareness rattling in Miss Fozzard’s mind. Even though she doesn’t listen to it, you know that aggravating little voice is there.

Likewise, in Bed Among the Lentils, Susan, a fortyish alcoholic vicar’s wife, is surprised to find herself happily compliant when her local shopkeeper, “the beautiful Mr Ramish, 26, with lovely legs,” politely asks her to take her clothes off.

The five monologues will be presented over the four-day run in two separate programs of two and three monologues each, alternating between matinee and evening performances. Program One, beginning at 2pm on Thursday, Sep 20, will include Waiting for the Telegram, The Hand of God, and Bed Among the Lentils. Program Two will first be performed on Sep 20 at 7pm and will feature Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet and A Woman of No Importance.

A synopsis for each monologue and a full calendar of the rotating programs are available online at sanmiguelplayhouse.com, at the Boleto City ticket kiosk at the Mercado Sano, second floor, Ancha de San Antonio 123, and on all promotional material. Tickets are 250 pesos and are available online and at Boleto City, Tuesday–Saturday, 1–4.

 

Theater

Five by Bennett

Thu–Sun, Sep 20–23, 2pm and 7pm

Performances each day

San Miguel Playhouse

Av Independencia 82

250 pesos

Tickets online or at Boleto City, Tues–Sat, 1–4

Early Bird Special: see both programs for 200 pesos

 

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