MIAMI – An acclaimed Hispanic theater festival in this South Florida city opens on Thursday with a Spanish play that delves into the frenetic pace, insanity and sickness of modern life.
“La extinta poetica” (Extinct Poetics), a work written by Eusebio Calonge and directed by “Paco de la Zaranda” (Francisco Sanchez), kicks off the 34th edition of the International Theatre Festival of Miami with the first of its four performances.
The play focuses on a nuclear family made up of a married couple and their two daughters, one of whom is disabled.
“From stimulants to tranquilizers, from speed to sleeping pills, from male enhancing pills to contraceptives. Barbiturates, zapping, gym. Consumer goods proliferation. Lotions, missed calls, sport scores, guided tours to a mortgaged hell. Hamster wheels. Extreme anxiety as the only way of feeling alive,” reads one synopsis.
There also are echoes in the play of the descent into insanity of Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”
A blurb on the festival’s Web site says of the play, “What does Ophelia do in our era? Who hears her lament before she sinks into vulgarity and tedium? It is like asking for the meaning of poetry in our age of speed and space.”
Before being brought to Miami, “La extinta poetica” had earlier been performed internationally in Montevideo and Buenos Aires.
The play is the product of a partnership between Zaragoza, Spain-based theater company Nueve de Nueve and a company now nicknamed “Unstable theater of nowhere,” founded in 1978 in the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera under the name La Zaranda.
Carmen Barrantes, one of the play’s four actors, told EFE in a break during a rehearsal that she has never viewed “La extinta poetica” as a spectator and therefore cannot comment on its impact on the audience.
But she says the play has marked a before and after for her as an actress.
“Immersing oneself in the code and language of ‘La extinta poetica’ is unique,” Barrantes said, noting that with La Zaranda “there are no egos on stage” and that the actors must be willing to “jump into the deep end” because no one tells them how to do their scene or portray their character.
That freedom makes one’s work as an actor “much more difficult,” said Barrantes, who shares the stage with Rafael Ponce, Ingrid Magrinya and Celia Bermejo.
Thursday night’s opening performance of “La extinta poetica” at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater also serves as the curtain-raiser for the 34th International Theatre Festival of Miami, which is being co-presented by Teatro Avante (celebrating its 40th anniversary this year) and the Arsht Center.
“I don’t even believe it myself,” Cuba’s Mario Ernesto Sanchez, director of Avante and the festival, told EFE. “It’s been many years and there are always a lot of difficulties, but here we are.”
Avante, a Miami-based non-profit theater organization, will premiere a work titled “Bayamesa” that was inspired by Cuban poet Maria Luisa Milanes (1893-1919), an “ardent feminist and patriot” who committed suicide at age 26.
Other plays to be performed at this Miami festival include a Chilean work titled “Cartas de Jenny – La intranscendente epopeya de Jenny Masterson” (Letters from Jenny – The Insignificant Epic of Jenny Masterson) that was written and directed Gustavo Meza and tells the story of “a domineering mother, an overprotected son and a girl who comes to break up the circle of maternal certainties with her charm and cheekiness.”
One of the works from Argentina is “Millones de segundos” (Millions of Seconds), a play written and directed by Diego Casado Rubio that tells of a transsexual teenager who since the age of five has been “counting the seconds he has left to live in an alien body.”