Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Vienna, a city at the turn of the century, the “character” that emerges from this group of tableaux, which are arranged so as to overlap, fade in and out, and even to take place simultaneously. The first one opens in a café, with a couple waltzing while Hugo and Magda converse about a friend who, it seems, can fly through the air. There follows the description of the toilette of an elderly lady, then a woman’s memory of an erotic encounter in India. A mother gives a lecture on deportment, and a speaker tells of his daughter being drenched by an ornamental fountain. In an “Orchard Scene,” a man carrying a tree branch has a homosexual encounter. A “River Scene” gives an impression of the Danube in the rain. In a return to the first tableau, the same couple speak “out of sync” about a visit to the Hofoper to see Fidelio and of the flying friend; the scene is taken from Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, according to the notes. There follows a woman reciting a list of “I don’t likes” beginning with Johann Strauss. An elderly mother contemplates suicide. An anecdote follows of an eccentric aunt who always wanted to be dusted. A speaker describes a black-and-white butterfly. Another tells of a rat seen in his lodgings: He unsuccessfully tries to strangle it. The drama ends with a discussion with a soldier on death. It is accompanied by music and mime: An old woman throws herself at a young man, nudes pose, and a soldier in red is both himself and his horse. The purpose of the whole is to evoke the unconscious world of Vienna, the subterranean world that informed life in that time and place. Freud is omnipresent in the sexuality, in patriarchal figures, and in the association of sex and death. Notes refer to Freud’s Five Letters on Psychoanalysis.