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September 30, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Peter Schaffer returns with El oído privado

Actors Ariel Mele, Jeremías López de Celis and Paula Russ in a scene from Schaffer’s The Private Ear.
By Alfredo Cernadas
For The Herald
A piece about a shy, clumsy office worker and his attempts to win a lady’s heart

It has been quite a while since a play by Sir Peter Schaffer (best known without the Sir) has been staged here. Before last year’s version of Amadeus, one of his biggest hits, Schaffer works have been absent on Buenos Aires’ theatrical scene for many years. Now it is the turn of El oído privado (The Private Ear) — one of his least famous works — to take the stage.

A pleasant, sensitive comedy that deals with Bob, a shy office worker whose condition prevents him from socializing, much less from having any kind of romantic experience with a girl.

But he accidentally meets one and musters enough courage to ask her out for a date, which she, unexpectedly, accepts. A blessing in disguise indeed for his social-training, for he is utterly inexperienced with women and has no idea about how to behave with them. So he asks a friend to help him out in that awkward situation.

At first, it seems like a good idea, for Ted is all that Bob is not: cool, elegant, has savoir faire, knows how to cook, has a sense of humour, you name it. All of these characteristics make Bob’s clumsiness even more evident. Ted arrives and takes over, giving his nervous friend some tips on what to do — and what to refrain from trying — and then goes to the kitchen to cook dinner.

Doreen, the girl, arrives shortly after. She is pretty and friendly and Bob does his clumsy-best to be a good host until Ted comes out of the kitchen, something that makes the difference between the two men quite glaring. Awkwardly enough, unpleasant situations come up as Doreen inevitably becomes an object of desire.

Eventually, Ted leaves and the other two remain alone. Bob puts on a dramatic recording of Peter Grimes and gradually gets hilariously carried away by the power of music, which grows to an imposing but — in this case — anticlimatic climax. Nevertheless, events move to a different mood when Bob opts for the ravishing love duet that closes the first act of Madam Butterfly with Maria Callas at her best in the title role. And his sensitivity gradually overcomes his awkwardness and… I won’t say more.

This play is as pleasant as it is foreseeable but what matters here is the way the story is told and how the characters behave. They are positively portrayed by: Ariel Mele, as the clumsy but likeable Bob; Jeremías López de Celis as the debonair, contrasting Ted and Paula Russ as a lovely Doreen. Directed with a confident hand by Jorge Sánchez Mon. The art deco set was designed by none other than René Diviú, who was also in charge of the wardrobe.

Where & When:

Patio de actores (Lerma 568, 4772-9732, www.patiodeactores.com.ar). Fridays, 9pm. Tickets for 90 pesos available at the venue.

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