So we had tickets for 2 more shows at the theatre festival this weekend. Though we were a bit disheartened after our first experience at the theatre, we were optimistic about the second two (at least I was, because they were the two that I chose. Haha.)
The first play was originally written by a British playwright, and had been translated into Portuguese (a compromise, I thought). It was about a South African woman who lived in a sort of convent/cult place and at the end of her life decided to abandon her religion and become an artist. The majority of the play was this old frail woman trying to jostle some independence between the strict local bishop that wanted her to be put into an old folks' home and her young sprightly city friend that wanted her to stand up to the bishop and keep up with her art despite the cult's disapproval.
It was hard for me to understand, mostly because we got there late and so we had to sit in the back row, and I couldn't understand old woman Portuguese, especially from 30 or so feet away. And on top of it the ending was totally abstract and metaphorical and with the language barrier, I lost it. Did she get sent the retirement home after all? Did she stay in her house and keep sculpting? Did she kill herself? Not even Alexandre was sure.
Our second play was being held 20 minutes later in a lecture hall at one of the local private (read: small, expensive, and poor quality) universities, so we had to book it. We stopped at AMPM for a fast, unhealthy dinner (old habits die hard) and drove over there.
While in line to get our seats, we picked up a little flyer that supposedly explained the play. The play was called "O sliêncio dos amantes," which can be translated to "The Silence of Lovers," except "amantes" can take many meanings-- lovers in an affair, lovers in a relationship, etc. The description had vague phrases like "we are all fallen angels" and "the idea of a box represents life and how we are enclosed in it, unable to express the conflicts we feel in our roles as parents, children, husbands, and wives."
I was still hungry after my microwaved gas station dinner, and I was grouchy and annoyed. "But what is it ABOUT?" I complained to Alexandre while we waited in line. "What kind of description is this? I want to know the plot. Like, 'Miguel works at a bank, and he has such and such a problem with his family.' Sei lá. This'd better not be like last night." I grumbled and made wisecracks until the lights dimmed.
Imagine that you had just read that description and then watched this opening of the play:
I wasn't getting my hopes up. "If this hasn't changed in 15 minutes, we're goin' for barbecue," I whispered.
But the play changed. Oh, did it change.
That flyer didn't have a plot description, because there wasn't a plot, per se. It was a set of 4 monologues. Those 4 people in the dirty angel costumes took turns taking off their masks, changing into real clothes, coming out of the giant box, and giving incredible, moving performances. Each one told a heartbreaking story about someone/some event in their family.
One guy was a midget (he was only halfway out of the box, and had his head placed on a midget doll's body. Hard to visualize, I know) whose father rejected him and whose mother treated him like an infant even though he was older, and whose mother also believed that he would one day eventually grow to a normal size.
The second monologue was by a girl whose husband killed himself. She scorned herself for not realizing how unhappy he was. She was both angry at him for being so selfish and angry at herself for being so naive.
The third monologue was a man whose mother had been an alcoholic, and how much it had messed him up. This one was particularly moving. While he gave his monologue, talking about how he never knew which mother to expect (because one minute she could be a raving bitch and the other a doting caregiver), about how he was embarrassed to invite people over, about how his father ignored the problem and blamed him and his brother for stressing her out, he walked along the tops of turned over cups that had been put all over the box on stage. He had to balance himself on top of these cups the whole time he talked. (Think of the image of walking eggshells, except they were tumblers.) At the end of his monologue, he methodically cleaned up all the cups.
The fourth woman told her story of her son who disappeared. She didn't know if he had died or run away and it haunted her forever.
While each person gave their monologue, the other actors stayed in their "fallen angel" costumes on stage and listened attentively, sometimes offering gifts of condolence and sometimes just giving understanding looks.
The whole thing was really heavy and depressing, but beautifully written and portrayed. It was the perfect balance of abstract and concrete. I think the point was that everyone functions in their daily life more or less normally (i.e, the masks), but everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has hurt and regret that they keep inside. I think the idea of the other "angels" on the stage was suggesting that we should all be more considerate and understanding with each other. The whole thing just made me want to hug everyone.
Lucky you! One of the actresses from the play has a youtube site, and she put up a video that shows a little of each monologue. Enjoy:
Turns out the author of the play is moderately famous here in Brazil. Her name is Lya Luft. She's a linguist and a playwright. :) This particular play is relatively new and hasn't been translated to English yet, but she has another one that has. The English name of her translated play is Losses and Gains (Perdas e Ganhos). Today, she writes for Veja (a Brazilia magazine similar to Newsweek).
I have a bit of free time tomorrow, so I'm gonna go to the bookstore and try to find the play we watched in print. (It's on the bookstore's website.) I think I'd be able to appreciate it even more if I could read it instead of giving 110% concentration to Rio de Janeiro accents. :oP
Turns out small-town theatre isn't so bad after all!