Camino Real is an untraditional play. An innocent stranger, Kilroy, arrives in the town of Camino Real only to be tempted by the lures of its degradations—including prostitutes hanging out of windows—a world where he is promptly robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Yet it is the character of Gutman, the expatriate, bellowing out the window and announcing stage changes like a surreal town crier, who breaks down the play’s imaginary fourth wall and invites the audience to consider the true horror: This is no “play,” no predictable exposition-climax-denouement farce, but rather, this is the mind itself (if not in the throes of death, then at least confronting them). It depicts a situation in which Kilroy confronts the facts of his existence: A former boxing champ facing his life’s choices for the very last time, wondering if he has really done his best after all.
Camino Real is divided into a prologue and sixteen “blocks,” scenes with no perceptible time lapse between them. There are intermissions indicated after blocks 6 and 11. The play is set in an unnamed Latin American country at a bustling tropical seaport, Camino Real, which bears a resemblance to such widely scattered ports as Tangiers, Havana, Casablanca, or New Orleans. When the curtain rises, there is a loud singing wind on a darkened stage accompanied by distant, measured reverberations like pounding surf or distant shellfire. The town plaza is seen fitfully by this light. On stage left is the luxury side of a street, containing the facade of the Siete Mares hotel. Its great bay window holds a pair of elegant “dummies” with painted smiles—one seated and one standing behind looking out into the plaza. Opposite the hotel is Skid Row, which contains the Gypsy’s gaudy stall, a loan shark’s establishment, and the Ritz Men Only, a flea-bag hotel.
The sixteen street blocks that make up the Camino Real are stretched between two worlds that are the creations of the human beings inhabiting them. On one side are the attractions of the Siete Mares, a place of luxury but one also underlaid with corruption and evil. Dominated by the threatening and sinister Gutman, the Siete Mares is soon revealed as a place of mysteriously appearing unclad female figures of...
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