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International Festival of Hispanic Theater Through March 15… Teatro de la Luna

International Festival of Hispanic Theater Through March 15

By Dan Via

February 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Washington Post Company. All rights reserved.

ELEVEN THEATER companies. Eight countries. Two stages. That's a whole lot of culture.

That's a whole lot of logistics to organize, too.

For six years now, Teatro de la Luna has imported theater artists from around the Spanish-speaking world for its annual International Festival of Hispanic Theater. Producers Mario Marcel and Nucky Walder cull the participating companies from their own travels, video submissions and recommendations from their network of friends. "[Once] the board of directors approves that company to be part of the festival, we send e-mails back and forth asking for the necessities and what they cannot transport and what we can provide," explains festival stage manager Peter Pereyra. "Obviously everybody -- them and us -- tries to be as flexible as possible."

The visiting companies generally arrive one or two days prior to their performance, leaving little time for technical preparations. Fortunately, several of this season's participants are used to the nomadic life. Puerto Rico's Laberuchy Inc., for example, doesn't have its own performance space, so it conceived its "Entre el Amor y los Genio (Between Love and Genius)" as a traveling production. Mexico's Delta Teatro de Culiacan-Sinaloa tours schools with its youth-oriented plays.

Still, says Pereyra, "[The festival] doesn't only pick plays that are simple in terms of scenery. We have different kinds of setups, from simple ones to very complex ones. We had a company from Spain [that] chose to bring their whole scenery: two little huts and a grasslike carpet that covered the whole stage. It's basically up to the company."

Because the companies involved range from self-starters like Laberuchy to better-funded troupes, Teatro de la Luna endeavors to provide whatever elements their guests can't afford to transport. "Basically for this festival we've been challenged with getting props," Pereyra says. "For instance, the Puerto Rican company needed a bed and a couple of mattresses and a few cubes that they're using to sit on."

All in all, Pereyra voices relief at the scope of work required for this year's event: "Compared to other festivals, this one is kind of light in terms of scenery. [In a previous festival] a company from Costa Rica needed a whole library at the back of the stage. Another company from Spain said, 'We only need one thing: a boat for six people.' "

What's a good host to do? They built the boat.

Teatro de la Luna, Waxing Political

By Barbara Mackay

February 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Washington Post Company. All rights reserved.

From agitprop and street productions to the works of Bertolt Brecht and Luis Valdez, modern political theater is the hardest theater to find in America. Often it seems that the best political drama is found in our news media, rather than on our stages.

So it is heartening to find six weekends of theater that set out to deal with political themes and situations. Presented by Teatro de la Luna, the Sixth International Festival of Hispanic Theater is an opportunity for Spanish-speaking companies from eight countries to explore the theme of "Theater and Exile."

More than a dozen productions are included in the festival, which will be presented at Arlington's Gunston Arts Center (simultaneous translation provided) and at the Instituto de Mexico in Washington. The festival began with "La Curva" ("The Curve"), written by German playwright Tankred Dorst and performed by three members of a troupe from Barcelona, Carro de Baco.

The play takes place in an anonymous wasteland, below an unmarked curve on a hazardous mountain road. Cars and buses regularly miss the turn and crash to the rocky terrain below. No one ever survives the fall.

Dorst's play opens with a terrible thunderstorm; lightning reveals crosses marking the graves of those who have died. But the next day dawns clear over the huts of two brothers, Anton (German Madrid) and Rudolf (Borja Tous Trog), who make their meager living from the disasters. Rudolf repairs and sells the wrecked vehicles while Anton writes saccharine obituaries of the deceased, based on the information he finds in the victims' personal effects.

The brothers' familiar routine of bodywork and burial is upset when a driver (ironically the director of the Department of Public Works) misses the curve but does not die. The play then becomes a clever examination of what happens when government becomes dedicated to making life "better" for its hapless citizens.

Dorst covers everything from the way a self-satisfied bureaucracy ignores the needs of the poor to the question of how far empathy will go when one's own survival is at stake. But his main concern is the clash between truth and delusion. All three characters in "La Curva" are living in private, amoral bubbles, cut off from reality and unwilling to perceive the effect of their actions on society.

In the skillful hands of director Antonia Castillo, "La Curva" is a fast-paced vehicle, always about to careen out of control. Rudolf and Anton are hilarious, scruffy clowns who never walk across the stage; they lurch and sidle, their exaggerated tics and physical antics underscoring the absurdity of Dorst's plot. Vincente Canon capably plays the puffed-up bureaucrat, a man whose exclusive interest in his own life blinds him to what is happening before his eyes.

The set is a simple, effective design by Cia. Carro de Baco. Two open wooden structures demonstrate the opposing personalities of the brothers: The front of Anton's house proudly displays flowers; Rudolf's house is hung with screwdrivers, drills and wrenches.

If "La Curva" is indicative of the quality of future performances, it should be an intellectually stimulating festival. Still to come are plays from Puerto Rico ("Entre el Amor y los Genios"/"Between Love and Genius," by Carlos Vega Abreu), Mexico ("Rojo Carmin"/"Blazing Red," by the ensemble La Matraka), Switzerland ("Umbral"/"Threshold," by Cristina Castrillo), Argentina ("Tango, Ese Loco Espejismo"/"Tango, the Passionate Embrace" and "Stefano," both by Francisco Cocuzza), Paraguay ("Cronica de un Secuestro"/"Chronicle of a Kidnapping," by Mario Diament) and Uruguay ("El Informante"/"Statements," by Carlos Liscano).

The festival includes three productions for children (in Spanish only) plus workshops for actors, teachers and young people. Unfortunately the works have short runs and don't play in repertory. Still, Teatro de la Luna deserves credit for planning and hosting this ambitious event.

La Curva/The Curve, by Tankred Dorst. Directed by Antonia Castillo. At the Gunston Arts Center, Theater II, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington, and the Instituto de Mexico, 2829 16th St. NW, through March 15. Call 703-548-3092 or 202-882-6227.

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