The Toronto-based NewTeatro Theatre Company is currently staging, until December 16th 2007, a repertoire of two plays from two highly regarded Latin American playwrights: “Divorcees, Evangelist and Vegetarians” by Gustavo Ott (Venezuela) and “The Deceased Woman” by Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the artistic director of the newly created theatre company, Fransisco Orta, to talk about these plays and his vision.
As a Venezuelan playwright, Orta explained that his primary mission with NewTeatro Theatre Company is to honour and give a platform to the great theatrical tradition coming from Latin America. While he sometimes has difficulty finding translated works in English, he is confident that Toronto’s English speaking audience will greatly appreciate the experience of discovering those Latin voices.
For NewTeatro’s debut performance, Fransisco Orta turns to fellow Venezuelan Gustavo Ott’s play “Divorcees, Evangelist and Vegetarians”. Gustavo Ott (born in Caracas, Venezuela, 1963) is an ingenious playwright whose plays have been translated in several languages and been performed in many countries such as Spain, Italy, the United States, Peru, England, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
“Divorcees, Evangelist and Vegetarians” (Divorciadas, Evangélicas y Vegetarianas) was first staged at the Ateneo in Caracas, Venezuela, on October 20, 1989. It is essentially a tragicomedy revolving around three women going through an existential crisis. Beatriz (the divorcee played by Silvia Preston) is at the brink of suicide as she realizes that her unfulfilled life has passed her by since she got married much too young due to an unexpected pregnancy. Gloria (the faux vegetarian played by Desiree Perruzza) is a high-octane diva who feels jilted and taken for granted by her married boyfriend. And Meche (the evangelist played by Monica Alfonsin) seems in constant struggle with her inner passions and frustrations that are bursting to explode like an inner volcano.
Together, these three characters interact in a touching and revealing way. Although very different and dealing with their own demons, they find comfort, reassurance, and ultimately salvation in each other.
The other play presented by NewTeatro, “The Deceased Woman”, is by the iconic Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues (1913-1980). He is credited with having inaugurated theatrical modernism in Brazil. Born in 1913 in the northern Brazilian town of Recife, Rodrigues moved to Rio with his newspaper-owning family in 1916. By the age of 13, he was already a crime reporter for his father’s newspaper. At the age of 17, he witnessed his brother Roberto getting shot to death by a wealthy socialite in retaliation for his family’s newspaper publishing a story on that socialite’s affair with a prominent doctor.
Those themes of crime and passion were never far from Nelson Rodrigues’ theatrical work.
“The Deceased”, although a comedy of black humor, is similarly a psychological foray into people’s inner passions and sometimes misplaced desires. We find the character of Zulmira, a working-class woman, dying of a pulmonary disease. She has grand visions of organizing a splendid funeral for herself. Meanwhile, her husband, Tuninho, has a burning desire of his own of winning an elusive fortune by gambling on his favourite soccer (futebol) team. All this is set in the context of greed and self aggrandizement. Traits particularly exhibited by the local funeral home owners who unscrupulously try to drain every cent out of their grieving patrons.
Both plays will leave the audience pondering about the internal struggles all humans have within themselves to find a coveted balance between our needs, desires, ambitions and longing for love. The evident passion and dedication of the cast and crew of the New Teatro Theatre Company leave no stones unturned.
Both plays run until December 16th @ Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkely St.
Tickets: $20.00 per show, $15,00 Students / Both shows $35,00, Students $25,00, Sundays PWYC