CASCADES OF LAUGHTER, BUT OF CRITICAL TYPE
The Bereaved Family (1934) is an extremely interesting comedy on a „bereaved“ group of people who expect an inheritance and have already started dividing the fortune that they have not got. In this work of comedy-writing terms the writer gave a gallery of characters of small minds who competed in lies and cynicism – headed by the masterly realized character of Agaton, who was the most dynamic personality among them, which meant with the most plastic features of hypocrisy and the lack of scruples, which a small but cunning mind could possibly have. Just in this Nusic’s comedy the dramatic and theatrical „imminent present time“ had its full effect, construed from simpler to more complex forms of sensual-concrete presentation. Namely, a group of people scatters as a group, persons individualize, enabling the character of Agaton to dominate ever more in a comical way, so that from a typical character of a certain social stratum and the said group he grows into a character who transforms and adjusts so cunningly that he loses the measures of his cunning mind and even himself is shocked with the exaggeration of his last combination! Our playwright masterly realized the dramaturgy of this comical play.
Verbal comics dominate in the first act. The second act has primarily been realized by situation comics, which reveal a gallery of characters and single out Agaton, who struggles to become „a leader“ of the bereaved family. The end of the second act is the pinnacle of that comics, since, paradoxically, individual interests lead the characters to a group, „family“ quarrel, in which words, as elements of hypocrisy and signs of interests, are reduced to the level of mere shouts. Finally, the third act begins with a revelation that the deceased has deceived them all: it would seem the group is united, but every individual has already taken and is taking off his face a mask, the mask of „the bereaved family“. Relatively calmly, with resignation, with bitter and vindictive, even sarcastic, words addressed to the deceased, every one of them reveals his/her real, morally corrupt face. Only Agaton tries to find new ways for his Proteus being, desiring to obtain inheritance, money and estate. Verbal and situation comics are now subordinated to the comics of character of Agaton’s person, of the group and the society. Traditional moral balance achieved by introduction of positive versus negative characters – a poor girl, the deceased’s illegitimate daughter, and a young lawyer, as a contrast to the group and Agaton – has not significantly disturbed this comical play. Fortunately, these positive persons are not meant to be in the comedy to lecture, or to show some ideal beings, but also to suffer them, to some extent, the sensuality of comical play. Traces of cruel life and shadows of tragic are lost in a vertiginous burlesque play, in humorous and lucidly ironic, even satirical relations and connotations, in cascades of thunderous laughter behind which is a vigorous well of critical, comic ethos.