Friday, November 13, 2009

Escandalo en la Trapa

Performance Date: 10.31.09
Mefisto Teatro, at Teatro Mella, Havana, Cuba

Next stop Havana.  The theater festival was amazing.  Just like any other festival only Cuban, which means they didn’t have a program printed until after the festival had begun (bad) and every show I attended and performed in was sold out and given a standing ovation (good).

Escandalo en la trapa by the Cuban theater company Mefisto Teatro was first up.  The story follows a young doctor in 19th century Cuba who becomes the object of affection for all the town’s ladies and one of the young men.  It was performed in a highly physical style reminiscent of commedia or farce.  Lemme break down the awesomeness:

  • The costumes!!  Made of paper, or seemingly so.  Stiff, brown paper, the kind they used to wrap packages in.  Imagine it rolled up into giant cylinders like the big ice cream tubs they use at Baskin & Robbins, or like oversized lampshades, and then imagine them tiered one top of the other to make a corseted dress that telescopes into itself when the actress kneels down.  Or imagine the paper pasted together into rigid suits with waistcoats, ties, and tails and giant shoes.  So that the whole cast – each in their own artfully distinguishable creation – looks like a claymation movie brought to life.  Unbelievable.

  • The movement!!  And then you ask, how can anyone move in costumes like that?  The answer was that they moved with huge gestures of great precision.  The actors must have rehearsed in costume because, in every case, the wardrobe and movement worked hand in hand to illustrate the character beautifully.  An ingenue’s dress bobbles and wiggles in an exact reflection of her foolish, bubbly, girlishness.  Another man’s jointless pants inform a stiff-legged walk that underscores his character’s stodgy old ways.  Brilliant!

  • The genre switching!!  The what??  The gender switching!!  The what??  The genre AND the gender switching!!  Ordinarily I might consider an abrupt shift in tone from commedia-type farce to epic melodrama a mark against a production, but in this case it was so unapologetic, so passionate that I was delightfully floored.  See, turns out the young doctor at the heart of the story is … a WOMAN!  Dun-dun-dun!  And the man who’s been portraying the role gets replaced, on stage, by a woman wearing the same stiff papery suit.  And from that point on, the play sheds it’s farcial, physical focus and becomes a chew-up-the-scenery, woman-and-gay-rights-championing, courtroom drama complete with teary testimonials and a nude reveal!  Respect, ladies and gentlemen.  Respect.

No comments:

Post a Comment