Samuel Buggeln, a New York theatre director and designer, is presently in Buenos Aires, where he is researching the Argentine theatre world.
This is part of a series of Samuel’s special reports from Buenos Aires. See more at his blog 25weeksbsas.blogspot.com.ar.
BUENOS AIRES | OK! As mentioned, my fourth Santiago Loza play was Mal de montaña, and I saved it for a new post because it’s a good lead-in to a larger artistic phenomenon I’ve been noticing here.
M de M is directed by Cristian Drut, a well-regarded youngish BsAs director. Kind of a North-America-process director in the way Loza is that kind of playwright: rather than developing things from scratch on an ensemble, Drut starts with an existing script and then casts and directs it. (Often foreign plays in translation.)
The first thing one notes about the Mal de Montaña production is that it is SUPER chic. Very disciplined and gorgeous in an extremely low-buck minimal way— a real example of how much you can do with very little, especially in terms of set and lighting. (Mujer Puerca was another good example of this.) Every moment of the play looked the cover of an album. In fact this is the only production photo you’ll see on this blog for which I did the terrible thing of sneaking the iPhone out of my lap and taking a picture during the show. The publicity stills are fine, but I just needed you to see.
But there’s a more interesting thing about Drut’s approach here. Mal de M, unlike Loza’s three other plays, isn’t a solo but a four hander. Still very Loza though: most of the “scenes” are really monologues (to which someone else occasionally adds “Wow” or “Really?”) They’re all 20sth to 30sth urban anomie young people, and the stories have this nice combination of being very funny (as usual) in the beat-to-beat, which only partly obscures the stories’ overall dark-dark-darkness.
It doesn’t add up to a single narrative, which is fine, and for that matter I have to admit I’m not even sure how differentiated the characters are. But anyway. What Drut does is to run the sequence of scenes one into the next without pausing, and with nobody leaving the stage at any time. So that even more interestingly, the people as they stay onstage can become different people — for example, the one woman in the cast kind of winds up “playing” all the different women referred to in the others’ stories.
And yes, I said “referred to,” because the actors often inhabit the scenes not as a participant of the scene but as a kind of manifestation of a person who is being spoken about. And these roles don’t stay static in this staging — Drut sometimes swaps lines, so that the person who is “really” there — who is being spoken to (instead of spoken of) — can change during the course of the scene. I thought this was a smart way to respond to what could be criticized as the maybe generic feeling of the characters — if the monologues feel a bit like cries from a whole kind of person, or even a whole generation, then why not have the production literalize that feeling?
Interested in reading more? Visit Buggeln’s blog at: 25weeksbsas.blogspot.com.ar/2013/11/teatro-17-18-thing-ive-learned-or-loza.html
- REPORT FROM THE FAR FAR SOUTH | Brutal Deco in Buenos Aires (cultureofoneworld.org)
- The Vilambit and the Drut (3quarksdaily.com)
- “La del manojo de rosas” in Madrid (operamylove.wordpress.com)
- Authoring Works (bunrakubootlegs.wordpress.com)
- Buenos Aires protests over outages (bbc.co.uk)