December 20, 2014
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
For the Herald
Set in Elvira’s courtyard, the performance space and the stalls have a semi-circular shape. Aside from a few wood chairs and a clothes rack, a metal curtain is the salient element in Graciela Galán’s otherwise simple set design. The clothes rack facilitates the separation between Elvira’s home and the exterior, and it also produces a strange, clanky noise that somehow underscores the performances. There’s also a black and white tile floor and a phonograph, which provide clues to the temporal element in the play — the early 20th century.
The lights alternate between green and blue, creating a sensation of cold, night temperature. The music too helps set time and epoch — old tangos play in the background, highlighting the intimacy and closeness of the story.
Vando Villamil plays Rufino and achieves a very interesting performance. A recently released prisoner, Rufino arrives in Elvira’s home with the hope of finding more information about Luli, a young woman he corresponded with. Although Luli has been dead for a few months, Rufino decides to go to her house to find some form of comfort and consolation, but once there he discovers more details than he had ever imagined.
Daniel Fanego plays the lovely Elvira, who has high expectations about meeting Rufino. Viñao’s choice to cast a man in a female role, curiously enough, adds authenticity to the story and makes it more interesting.
Fanego’s work is impeccable, his delicate movements and his serenity are proof of his detailed observation of the behaviour of a woman like Elvira.
The concept of discovery is present through the whole story. The characters constantly shift their speech patterns, thus unveiling the fact that they’d been telling one another lies all the time.
Although the story revolves around the meeting between Elvira and Rufino, Cartas de la Ausente touches on topics like amorous illusions, prejudice, and the speculation so typical of virtual communication.
Cartas de la ausente is set about one hundred years back, but parallels can be drawn between that era and today, when communication, regardless of distance, is still plausible but likely to tip half-truths and provoke misunderstandings. With stunning performances and very interesting direction, Cartas de la ausente is a play everyone can relate to.
Where and when
At Teatro Nacional Cervantes, Libertad 815. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9.30pm, Sundays at 9pm. Tickets from $60.