Maruxa Vilalta is known at home and abroad as an experimentalist, a playwright who with every new work further explores the possibilities of the theatrical medium. Her plays have been showcases for significant theatrical innovations since the mid-twentieth century, and they have been associated with names such as Eugène Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and Bertolt Brecht. Vilalta has been concerned with the most pressing issues of the twentieth century, such as the loss of direction in a seemingly absurd world, humankind’s horrifying capacity for cruelty, and the corrupting allure of power. Given these concerns, it is not surprising that Vilalta’s plays are themselves often violent and shocking and that her characters are dehumanized grotesques.
Vilalta’s work, like much experimental theater since the 1960’s, means to assault rather than comfort audiences, and has a definite political intent while not being allied with any specific ideology. Instead, it makes a statement with a broad application, regardless of geography or culture. As a result, Vilalta has won audiences throughout Latin America, in the United States, Canada, and numerous European countries. In Mexico itself, Vilalta has three times received that country’s most prestigious drama award, the Alarcón Prize of the Mexican Critics Association—for Together Tonight, Loving Each Other So Much, Nothing Like the Sixteenth Floor, and The Story of Him. Number 9 was selected for publication in the United States as one of the best short plays of 1973. Vilalta’s major plays have been published in English as well as in French, Italian, Catalan, and Czech.
Vilalta won the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz award for best play in 1976 for Nothing Like the Sixteenth Floor. That same year, she was awarded the El Fígaro award for best play for The Story of Him. In 1991, she received the award for best play for A Voice in the Wilderness: The Life of Saint Jerome from the Agrupación de Periodistas Teatrales. The drama also won the Claridades award for best play of the year. The Asociación Mexicana de Críticos de Teatro gave the drama Francis of Assisi its award for the best creative research.
Bearse, Grace, and Lorraine E. Roses. “Maruxa Vilalta: Social Dramatist.” Revista de estudios hispánicos 43 (October, 1984): 399-406. An analysis of Vilalta’s role as a social dramatist.
Cajiao Salas, Teresa, and Margarita Vargas. Women Writing Women: An Anthology of Spanish American Theater of the 1980’s. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. The authors analyze Vilalta’s dramaturgy and provide detailed bibliographical information. They include an English translation by Kirsten F. Nigro of A Woman, Two Men, and a Gunshot.
Gladhart, Amalia. The Leper in Blue: Coercive Performance and the Contemporary Latin American Theater. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. This study explores contemporary controversial playwrights with sociopolitical messages. Gladhart examines several of Vilalta’s plays.
“Maruxa Vilalta.” In Dictionary of Mexican Literature. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992. A concise biographical treatment of Vilalta.