Keeping the humor of the Quintero brothers

In the courtyard there is a stage, and on the stage a rough screen, which simulates the whitewashed facade of an Andalusian house with its movable lattice and pot of geraniums; there is also on the board four comedians presenting five sketches by the Alvarez Quintero brothers and in the cast, a petite actress, Carmen Canivel, who infuses spark and nerve in this tribute to those from Utrera, offered by Quique Theater San Francisco of Madrid and which is one of the best theater options in Madrid in August.

Anniversaries have the power to restore despised authors. Now it is the turn of the brothers Serafin and Joaquín Alvarez Quintero, very popular in the Spanish theater of the first third of the 20th century, with more than two hundred written works and librettos of the zarzuela, members of the Royal Spanish Academy, who had the favor of their contemporary critics such as Pérez de Ayala and authors such as Luis Cernuda and Galdos (a very good friend of theirs and to whom he asked to take his Marianella).

But they were branded casposillos for their folklore and branded for their lack of ideological commitment by some pre-democracy and later theater critics, i.e. by Montleon, Haro… In fact, this type of criticism, official after 1970, which has hidden Alvarez Quinteros from public theaters for so many years, is a way of understanding the people as an abstract subject of political action and, therefore, of contempt for their tastes as they were and are.

[Los Compadres rinden homenaje a los Álvarez Quintero]

Now what 150 years since the birth of Serafin, two years older than his brother Joaquinfive short plays by playwrights are performed in the courtyard of Quique San Francisco (formerly Galileo) –the bolt, ugly and exquisite, alcohol philosophy, fatty blood Y desire to fight– collection in production Tribute to Alvarez Quinteros, directed by Alfonso Sánchez (who also stars) and which has the support of the City Council of Utrera (the brothers’ homeland). The time has come to see if this theater is an anachronism or if the prophecies of its worst critics are ridiculous.

The selection of titles judiciously brings together five short sketches, trifling pieces to make one laugh for a while, in merry Andalusian costume, and written with rhythmplaced in popular classes according to genre requirements and almost all about boyfriend conflicts from funny anecdotes: man loves wrong sister in the bolt; an ugly woman can have a charm that he falls in love with ugly and exquisite; the excessive parsimony of Candela’s suitor delays the declaration of love too much fatty blood; Y desire to fight It’s a delicious argument between a couple as they breathe in the cool air on a summer night. only alcohol philosophy he digresses from the subject by presenting us in the confessional pub with the sympathetic soliloquy of the debt-ridden drunkard performed by Alfonso Sánchez.

carmen canivel

Small light works that are picked up here by some actors who know how to create the type, drop the joke, put their Sevillian accent on it and represent the natural salt pan with which people in some places of the earth like Andalucia have been blessed. A grace that inspired Álvarez Quinteros to create modest and unpretentious theater, with humor that does not hurtand whose tone and grace have been captured very well by this quartet of actors: Alfonso Sanchez and Carmen Canivel – a great comedian, especially brilliant in fatty blood– Antonia Gomez Grande and Alberto Lopez join.

The modesty of this theater is reflected in this simple staging, designed after the comedians’ league stages that were located in city squares. In the absence of gaps, between the pieces, the actors go up and down the stage, and at their feet there are dressing rooms and donkeys in costumes, and sometimes they even make the performance continue there. On stage, the aforementioned screen unfolds and from a whitewashed facade becomes a fairground, a small saloon or a tavern as the case may be.

Costumbrista and humorous theater, in the spirit of Arniches and heir to a long tradition that began in Lope de Rueda. Today, this theater is written for television series, but many would like to have the literary quality and grace of Alvarez Quinteros.

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