The Visit (Agee translation)by Friedrich Durrenmatt
Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s most renown play, The Visit, is a consummate, alarming Dürrenmatt blend of hilarity, horror, and vertigo.
Guellen’s residents boast that Brahms composed a quartet when he visited and Goethe once slept there, but by the time of Freidrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit, the town has fallen on hard times, its factories shuttered and its residents living on the dole. When prodigal daughter Claire Zachanassian returns, the townspeople hope the millionaires will restore Guellen to its past glory. But the eccentric millionairess, traveling with an entourage that includes husbands (numbers 7, 8 and 9), blind eunuchs, and a black panther, offers them a Faustian bargain and it becomes clear that the town’s financial salvation will come with a high moral price.
Dürrenmatt’s play has the sweep of a Greek tragedy yet is set in a contemporary, dying industrial town; its unemployed serve as a chorus for our age. When the world’s richest woman makes an offer that is hard to refuse, we witness “a community slowly yielding to temptation” and what was at first unthinkable comes to be seen as inevitable.
“A small masterpiece of misanthropy . . . a grotesque fable whose icy laughter and bizarre fantastical sideshows (a pair of blind, guitar-strumming eunuchs, for instance) reflect its Swiss author’s proximity to both the Holocaust and the accompanying absurdist revolution in theater. . . . A nightmare about democracy, Dürrenmatt’s play will always be pertinent.” —Frank Rich, The New York Times
“Bold, grisly drama of negativism.” —Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times
Winner of The Schiller Prize
Winner of the the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play
Winner of the ALTA National Translation Award