Sunday, March 28, 2010

Janet's "Blogota," part dos

Today, the festival was all about The Odyssey. I saw two completely different treatments of the Greek classic, one by the Ish Theatre Company from Israel and the other by Teatro de los Andes from Bolivia. The first was a delightful comedy about a man caught between caring for his old father, his argumentative wife, and his crying bambino. All the dialogue in this clever show was gibberish, wittily laced with universally recognizable phrases from Italian, Spanish and English. Whenever our latterday Odysseus became too stressed with the pressures of his daily life, it would morph into the hero’s epic journey. Two actors and one actress told the entire story with wonderful movement, broad characterizations and a handful of props. This piece was inspiring in its simplicity.

Equally brilliant was the ensemble from Bolivia under the direction of internationally acclaimed director Cesar Brie. In his hands, Odysseus is an immigrant, forced to leave his wife and son in order to support them. On a set made entirely of bamboo poles that move on multiple tracks to create walls and jungles, the story unfolds showing the loneliness and vulnerability of those left behind, the struggle to stay connected to home, and the cold-hearted indifference of the authorities. In one poignant moment, everyone in the company takes out a photograph of a loved one who is far away and talks about it, all the voices overlapping until you have the sense of the whole continent of South America suffering from the pain of mass immigration. In the final image, the cast lay at the front of the stage, each with a small candle before them. With their first two fingers, each shows a pair of legs walking slowly, slowly through a bed of sand towards their little light. It was a beautiful image that represented for me the movement of people through time in pursuit of a better life while at the same time acknowledging the high cost in human suffering.



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