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Monday, June 15, 2015

Longing for tango on the Red Planet

A scene from Mariano Saba’s well-accomplished play Esto también pasará.
A scene from Mariano Saba’s well-accomplished play Esto también pasará.
A scene from Mariano Saba’s well-accomplished play Esto también pasará.
By Victoria Eandi
Herald staff

New play posits dark future for Argentina with a destiny that is always doomed to failure

Language is one of the most decisive aspects which define the identity and idiosyncrasy of a country. Music could be another. Both are turned into a challenging topic in the brilliant play by Mariano Saba and directed by Andrés Binetti, Esto también pasará, already in its second season.

This science fiction piece postulates a distant future in which Argentina is a flood-wrecked country. As a last hope, the province of Córdoba is exchanged for an inhospitable lot in the new promised land: Mars. “The amputated homeland has been holed in the centre of its womb and dreams again with saviour deserts: another desert for the nation,” the hand programme says. But water must still be found there before allowing a massive emigration, so the play shows an Argentine expedition crew doing research on a spaceship to the Red Planet.

Science fiction is a free genre which enables many possibilities, sometimes just to show technological progresses or ecological catastrophes. In Esto también…, one of the great assets is that it is used to deal with topics related to local past history and present situations. The Argentine history related to “the conquest of the desert,” as well as giving away today those same lands to foreign buyers, are present in this piece in a metaphoric, oblique, and intelligent manner. And it also “approaches the irony of imagining the Argentine identity as a connection between the past and its words, as a derisory way of dreaming a future that is always doomed by the boundary of silence. A piece which deals with furious language and its non-stop recoil, a language which chases its own tail,” as it is described in the press release.

The music of the past in this fiction about the future is the tango, because it is considered a vile drug or a poison — there are explicit theatre references in this play; tango is associated with Hamlet’s poison, which enters through the ear. Tango is, according to Esto también…, a genre related to melancholy and homesickness, and now it is forbidden — as books are banned in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, also because they bring about melancholy — because of the risk of outbursts or tears. By the way, in the Middle Ages, melancholy used to be linked to the deadly sin of acedia.

However, no matter how hard they try, the members of the expedition cannot leave the past behind. The music and the language of old times — their ancestors’ Arabic or Yiddish as well as those old dangerous words by Jorge Luis Borges, which are a constant reminder, according to the characters, of tango mixed with metaphysics — keep coming back as a proof of Argentina’s doomed fate and its failed attempts to move on, symbolized by the national flag that the expedition never gets to place on Mars land.

“That is our national destiny, fail again, fail better,” says a member of the crew, quoting Samuel Beckett’s Worstward Ho. On the other hand, Rainer Maria Rilke is quoted to express nostalgia; a man’s deepest identity would be in the past: “A man’s true homeland is his childhood.” At every turn, classics are confronted with future visions, determining what the men look forward to.

The author of the piece, Mariano Saba, is also part of the cast, which features Ezequiel Lozano, Alejandro Lifschitz and Alfredo Martín. They all deliver exceptional performances, each of them with their own peculiarities; the members of this expedition are similar to the voyagers commanded by Ulysses in the Odyssey. Homer’s hero was in charge of keeping them focused on returning home (in Esto también…, the aim is to create a new homeland).

Ulysses and his crew face different temptations which go against their main goal, such as the sirens, those sea geniuses or magicians who seduce singing with their beautiful voices; they can make the ships capsize and force the navigators to disembark in their lands, where they run the risk of being devoured by these aquatic creatures. In Esto también…, the sirens are compared with The Appearances, organisms from Venus who also inhabit Mars, and who take on the look of beautiful women (or women who were part of the crew members’ lives). As the gods do in Greek mythology, those metamorphoses provoke illusory images that confuse men, “mind projections,” as they are defined in the play. In Esto también…, The Appearance — performed by Mariela Asensio, the only woman in the cast — represents the crew’s ruin, not only because of how she looks, but also because of what she sings, just like those ancient sirens.

Esto también pasará is a truly original work, not only because it deals with a rarely seen genre onstage, such as science fiction, but also thanks to the way it connects an imaginary future with the past and with a deeper way of being.

Saba has intertwined Argentina’s language and habits with the epics of the classics to imagine the future in a clever and amusing way, achieving a very consistent and well-constructed fiction. Binetti has directed it with good rhythm and in a very resourceful manner, avoiding any sophisticated special effects approach, but pointing instead to “low budget” solutions, as an equivalent of a B movie — excellent set design by Saba and Binetti, together with Magalí Acha, and costume design by Ana Algranati.

Esto también pasará is, last but not least, an outstanding example of how theatre can be one of the most playful arts. It is not necessary to have pretentious production resources, just very good ideas, no matter if it is the past, the present or the future, the Earth or Mars, regardless how gloomy or happy the world to be imagined is.

When and where

Saturdays at 10.30 pm at Teatro del Pueblo (Av. Roque Sáenz Peña 943).

@victoriaeandi

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