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Edith Wharton’s Xingu Comes to Playreaders

By Kate Rowland

The delightfully eloquent and wickedly witty 1916 short story “Xingu,” by Edith Wharton, will be presented in play form by Playreaders at St Paul’s Church on Cardo 6, at 7:30pm on Wednesday, October 3, and Thursday, October 4. This will be something totally new for San Miguel—a short story brought to life on stage by the story’s characters, word-for-word, exactly as written! This is a charming and hilarious script developed by the San Francisco Theatre Company called appropriately, Word For Word.

The story takes place at a book club meeting in one of the “lesser” homes, the home of Mrs Ballinger. “Mrs Ballinger is one of the ladies who pursue culture in bands, as though it were dangerous to meet alone. To this end, she had founded the Lunch Club, an association composed of herself and several other indomitable huntresses of erudition. The Lunch Club, after three or four winters of lunching and debate, had acquired such local distinction that the entertainment of distinguished strangers became one of its accepted functions. And so, in recognition of this reputation, it duly extended to the celebrated Osric Dane, on the day of her arrival in Hillbridge, an invitation to be present at the next meeting. The only issue is that none of the women have much to discuss and seem to meet at these clubs to socialize as much to discuss the books. As a result, they are at a loss as to what to speak about so as not to embarrass themselves in front of the author. Some of them carry a handy helper called, Appropriate Allusions to ensure they can sound erudite and well-read when mixing with people who might use words like ”erudite” or ”literati” in everyday conversation.

The lady’s names alone are a delight, reminding me of Dickens: Mrs Leveret (a young rabbit). Mrs Plinth (a solid block of stone at the base of a column—a pillar of society?) has a footman, while poor Mrs Ballinger is one “whose obligations to society were bounded by the narrow scope of two parlor-maids.” The way these women are outfoxed by the one club member they actually see as “unfit” for the club is hilarious. Enjoy such delicious lines as “She has a mind like a hotel where facts came and went like transient lodgers, without leaving their address behind, and frequently without paying for their board,” and “It was as though her countenance had so long been set in an expression of unchallenged superiority that the muscles had stiffened and refused to obey her orders.”

Xingu will be brought to life by a brilliant cast of San Miguel favorites—Maggie Bunce, Henrietta Weekes, Phoebe Greyson, Marty Frazer, Gina Giampaoli, Lauren Osornio, and Marjorie Burren. It is directed by Kate Rowland. Lights and sound will be provided by Lou Barranti. Tickets cost 30 pesos and will be sold at the door starting at 6:30pm, on a first-come, first-served basis.




Wed–Thu, Oct 3–4, 7:30pm

St Paul’s Church

Cardo 6

30 pesos


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