The Play

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Largo Desolato begins in darkness, with orchestral music appropriate to the title (slow and solitary), which continues to play between scenes. The curtain reveals Leopold alone in his apartment, silently staring at the entry door. After a pause he goes to the door, looks out the peephole, and listens. The curtain falls and rises; the scene repeats. The action eventually continues with the entrance of Edward, who asks Leopold questions about his mental and physical condition. Leopold’s many complaints relate to his tension over an unnamed expected arrival. His wife Suzana enters with groceries; Leopold puts them away and reports to her about his morning. He suggests a supper with Edward and Lucy, but she has plans to go out. Leopold is telling Edward why he is afraid to leave the apartment unguarded when two men arrive. Leopold thinks that they are policemen, but after a tense moment they explain that they are mill workers, and they are seeking to supply Leopold with paper in exchange for his helping them with their labor problems. The two workers, both named Sidney, sit with Leopold for an uncomfortable interview while Edward and Suzana have an inaudible discussion behind the glass door in the kitchen. Lucy arrives and must restrain her laughter over the uncomfortable exchange of broken political cliches with the workers. When Edward and Suzana emerge, greeting Lucy, the workers take their leave, followed shortly by Edward and Suzana, who are going to see a film. Lucy and Leopold, alone together, discuss their affair. Leopold explains his philosophical reluctance to commit himself to her version of love, but she concludes that he has an emotional block. The curtain falls as she tries to “unblock” him, covering his passive face with kisses.

Scene 4 occurs later that evening, as Bertram expresses to Leopold his concern about his friend’s reputation with the other dissidents. Leopold, shivering in his bathrobe before the balcony door that Bertram has opened, nevertheless tries to allay Bertram’s fear that his recent imprisonment and the pressure of police scrutiny may have broken his spirit or otherwise altered his ability to perform the role of a leader in the political opposition. Lucy, who has been calling from offstage, enters from the bedroom, clad only in a bedspread. She ends Bertram’s interview, closing the balcony door and seeing him off. She then returns to the topic of their conversation in scene 3.

Leopold, reflecting on his self-consciousness in terms borrowed from Bertram, tries to explain his emotional situation and sexual reticence to Lucy, but she becomes distraught, telling Leopold that his excuses are just a cover for his desire to reject her now that he has...

(The entire section is 1111 words.)