La Turista

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A: Sam Shepard Pf: 1967, New York Pb: 1968 G: Com. in 2 acts S: A Mexican and an American hotel room, 1960s C: 6m, 1fKent and his wife Salem are American tourists, confined to bed in their hotel room in Mexico because of severe sunburn and an attack of ‘la turista’, i.e. diarrhoea. A native Boy comes to their room and refuses money to go away. Kent goes to the toilet and re-emerges very pale, wearing a cowboy hat and gun belt, and acknowledges that the USA is so ‘clean and pure and immaculate’ that its citizens are becoming ‘lily-livered weaklings’. Discovering the Boy in his bed, Kent drops in a faint. Salem phones for a doctor and then has to rush to the toilet herself. A Witch-Doctor and his Son appear and conduct a ritual over Kent's body, which involves the sacrifice of two chickens. The Boy says that it is too late, since both Kent and Salem are dead, and refuses to leave with Salem to the States, because he is going to meet his father. The scene is transformed into a hotel room in the States. A Doctor (played by the same actor as the Witch-Doctor), who is dressed in Civil War costume, examines Kent. The Doctor diagnoses sleepy sickness and prescribes benzedrine, so that the couple can continue their journey to Mexico. The Doctor's Son wonders whether they should not go to Canada, where a corpse would be ‘less noticeable’. Kent begins to transform into Frankenstein's monster. Doc shoots him but fails to stop Kent, who finally escapes by swinging off on a rope.

A: Sam Shepard Pf: 1967, New York Pb: 1968 G: Com. in 2 acts S: A Mexican and an American hotel room, 1960s C: 6m, 1f

This wildly theatrical piece was Shepard's first full-length play and established his reputation as a new force in the American theatre. The sudden leaps of the plot, the reversal of time between the two acts, and the extravagant characters are all exploited to satirize the American way of life: the stereotypical American couple, named after cigarette brands, who are already dead, but for Kent apotheosis is achieved by becoming a monster created by science.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

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