And I thought Spring Awakening was sex-crazed! Arthur Schnitzler’s Der Reigen (in the Carl Mueller version I read, La Ronde) is about nothing but. Pairs of characters approach sex via dialogue and groping, engage (concealed by three small dots), and gather up their things. One member of the pair advances to the next round, men and women alternating
In scene I, for example, The Prostitute and The Soldier dally under a Viennese bridge, and then in scene II The Soldier seduces The Parlor Maid, who subsequently topples upon The Young Gentleman, who is up to no good with The Young Wife, and on like this to scene X, when The Count is surprised to find himself with The Prostitute of scene I.
What a director does with the actual sex, hidden by Schnitzler, I do not know. Kill the lights for three seconds, perhaps. These days, probably not.
The scenes, and lines, expand as the play proceeds. The Prostitute is efficient with her Soldier:
PROSTITUTE: Shh! Police. Imagine. The middle of Vienna.
SOLDIER: Over here. Come on.
PROSTITUTE: Watch it. You want to fall in the water!
SOLDIER: (Takes hold of her.) You little –
PROSTITUTE: Hold tight.
SOLDIER: Don’t worry.
[Now, the modest dots]
PROSTITUTE: We should’ve used the bench.
SOLDIER: Who cares. Get up.
And then just a few more lines finish this indecorous scene. Later seducers have to work harder, and philosophize more:
COUNT: But there’s no such thing as happiness. The things people talk about most don’t really exist. Love, for example. It’s the same with happiness.
ACTRESS: You’re right.
COUNT: Pleasure. Intoxication. Fine. No complaints. You can depend on them. If I take pleasure in something, fine, at least I know I take pleasure in it. Or if I feel intoxicated. Wonderful. That’s something you can depend on, too. And when it’s over – well, then, it’s over.
ACTRESS: (Grandly.) Over!
COUNT: But as soon as you fail to live for the moment, and begin thinking about the future or the past – well then, the pleasure’s as good as dead. The future is – sad – the past uncertain. In short – it only confuses one.
ACTRESS: (nods, her eyes large with wonder.) I think you may have hit on something there.
That (Grandly) direction is pretty good. I would not want to argue strongly for the author’s view. Everyone gets his say, or hers, and everyone is undercut. The most common refrain is to seize the day, but the context is always pathetic, or ridiculous. The day, however, is always seized, in some crude sense, which may well be better than the alternative. The ennobled lemurs are doing what they can.
Austrian literature, concentrated in turn of the century Vienna, was the leading alternative to the Portuguese Literary Challenge. Maybe next time.