Dino Buzzati Drama Analysis

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Dino Buzzati’s writings, both for the page and for the stage, have a distinctive aura of ominous threat and loneliness. His stories and plays often feature protagonists caught in mysterious and incomprehensible circumstances. In many cases, a character must satisfy terms that unknown forces have dictated, even if the purveyor of the terms appears as a pleasant and cheerful character whose real menace becomes gradually transparent. There is a rich sense of irony running through these works, linking Buzzati to the earlier writers of the Italian teatro del grottesco or Theater of the Grotesque , which emphasized the curious affinity of the horrendous with the laughable, seen in the work of such writers as Luigi Chiarelli, Pier Maria Rosso di Secondo, Luigi Antonelli, and, of course, Luigi Pirandello. The effects Buzzati creates in this way have often inspired the adjective Kafkaesque, for his characters have a strong kinship with those hapless protagonists in Franz Kafka’s Der Prozess (1925; The Trial, 1937), Das Schloss (1926; The Castle, 1930), and Die Verwandlung (1915; The Metamorphosis, 1936). Because of the surreal and metaphysical quality in his writing, some critics have associated him with E. T. A. Hoffmann and Edgar Allan Poe. The paintings of Giorgio De Chirico are often likened to the atmospheric effects in Buzzati’s stories.

There is a natural theatricality to Buzzati’s work, even if he favored the novel and short-story form. That sense of impending doom and frightening isolation could only be heightened in the theater, where the audience must endure the plight in the immediate moment. His association with the working theater was relatively brief and never fully comfortable. Almost all of his plays date from between 1953, the year of the production of his Un caso clinico, and 1968, the year of his last play, La fine del borghese. The famous director, Giorgio Strehler, co-founder with Paolo Grassi of the Piccolo Teatro of Milan, sensed this potential in Buzzati and urged him to write for the stage. He in fact suggested that Buzzati adapt his short story, “Sette piani,” and the result was the play Un caso clinico, which Strehler then directed. On Buzzati’s part, the theater was an intimidating form, dependent as it always is on the work of many collaborators and the vagaries of an unpredictable public. Buzzati has described in his interviews with Yves Panafieu the nerve-wracking anxiety of watching rehearsals, which on one occasion prompted him to stand up and shout “That’s not it!” and storm out of the rehearsal hall when Strehler was directing his one-act play, La rivolta contro i poveri, only later to find that the public loved it. By contrast, watching rehearsals of Maner Lualdi’s one-act adaptation of his La fine del borghese, everything seemed perfect in rehearsal, yet once the audience arrived, it was greeted with a great yawn. The theater, he has said, is like a drug: It sucks people in and mesmerizes them. It can be perverse and pernicious. People devote their whole lives to working this magic as actors, directors, designers, and playwrights, yet its rewards are fleeting and completely unpredictable.


(The entire section is 1333 words.)