(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Shepard wrote his first two-act play while living in Mexico; the mirroring acts give him a structure for his ideas that would work in several subsequent plays, including The Tooth of Crime, Geography of a Horse Dreamer, and Operation Sidewinder. Shepard takes advantage of the automatic tendency on the part of the audience to compare and contrast the events of each act, thereby informing both parts in the examination.

Kent and Salem are traveling in Mexico (in act 1) when Kent becomes very sick with la turista, the Mexican slang name for diarrhea. In a crazed, fevered state, Kent is “treated” by a native doctor and his son. Salem interrupts the dialogue with long monologues of the past, a device that Shepard had employed in earlier, short plays. Salem’s speeches add color and shadow to the bare plot. In act 2, which takes place earlier in time than act 1, Kent suffers from sleeping sickness (judging from the symptoms). Again, a doctor and his son are called in to help; Kent becomes violent in his hallucinations, eventually crashing through the wall of his room.

“La Turista” is both the tourist and his disease—a displacement of the artist, with concomitant suffering. Two figures, echoed in each act, on one level the doctor and his son, are on another level the appeal to the hero of a cosmic cure to a universal sickness. The two invade the privacy of the tourist with a curative, but at the expense...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Auerbach, Doris. Sam Shepard, Arthur Kopit, and the Off-Broadway Theater. Boston: Twayne, 1982.

Bottoms, Steven J., and Don B. Wilmeth. The Theatre of Sam Shepard: States of Crisis. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Cohen, Robert. Theatre. Palo Alto, Calif.: Mayfleld, 1981.

Cohn, Ruby. New American Dramatists: 1960-1980. New York: Grove Press, 1982.

Hart, Lynda. Sam Shepard’s Metaphorical Stages. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. 1987.

Marranca, Bonnie, ed. American Dreams: The Imagination of Sam Shepard. New York: Performing Arts Journal, 1981.

Marranca, Bonnie, and Gautam Dasgupta. American Playwrights: A Critical Survey. New York: Drama Book Specialists, 1981.

Mottram, Ron. Inner Landscapes: The Theater of Sam Shepard. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984.

Oumano, Ellen. The Life and Work of an American Dreamer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986.

Patraka, Vivian M., and Mark Siegel. Sam Shepard. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1985.

Rosen, Carol. Sam Shepard: A Poetic Rodeo. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Roudané, Matthew, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Shewey, Don. Sam Shepard. New York: Da Capo Press, 1997.

Wilcox, Leonard, ed. Re-reading Shepard: Contemporary Critical Essays on the Plays of Sam Shepard. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993.