|Playwright Jorge Kuri is a modernist playwright
who has struck a nerve in the artist community of Mexico City with a recent
series of abstract plays dealing with the passions of the young. His work
has hitherto been produced in NYC only by the International Hispanic Theater
Festival (in 2001). Now, La MaMa will present the world premiere of his
puzzling abstract fable, "The Bitterness of the Meringue," in
an English translation by Edith Luna of Mexico City, in its First Floor
Theater from January 20 to February 6, directed by Raine Bode.
Kuri's work has been seen in important theater festivals such as the
Kunsten Festival des Arts in Brussels, the International Hispanic Theatre
Festival in New York and Miami, The International Mexican Cervantino Festival,
Grec Festival in Barcelona, Temporada Alta in Gerona, Festival Iberoamericano
in Cadiz, Granada Abierta, Festival Iberoamericano in Bogotá, Caracas
International Festival, and Puerto Rico International Theatre Showcase,
Kuri described his play as "An Autumnal Farce of the Cosmic Anguish."
Its theme is succinctly explained by a proverb that says, "It's better
to have a broken heart than a rusted one." The play reflects on the
risk that love implies the consequences of it, and the price to live an
adventure. It unfolds in a sketchy form, with an atmosphere somewhat like
an early 20th century medicine show--as if to be played before the oleos.
A young man named Fenix arrives in a nowhere town, accompanied by a
mentor who is teaching him the art of traveling. He confuses love between
a young woman and her older sister who is a prostitute; the latter of
whom literally steals his heart because she longs to free herself from
a mythical punishment. The play's second part is aptly subtitled, "The
Cabaret of Discontinued Love." It contains many outward philosophical
pronouncements on love, as when a braggart guard of a tenement house declares,
"Love is the bitterness of the meringue, an expensive and sweet candy
that becomes bitter; is the central garden where all paths come together.
However, love doesn't exist; it is a path that invents itself in every
mirage and offers to travelers the fleeting illusion of a city where travelers
can stop to give their heart a rest…but…but everybody is happy
and so am I."
Fenix, who cannot unravel the difference between having sex and being
in love, finds he has no heart to give the younger woman, whom he actually
loves. In the end he dies because he is literally heartless and the younger
sister leaves the town for a better life.
The production is Kuri's La MaMa debut and features a new generation
of collaborators from the US, Mexico and abroad. The cast, in formation
as of this writing, includes Antonio Cerezo, Nicky Paraiso, Siho Ellsmore,
John Benoit and Sasha Painter. Design is by Raine Bode and Antonio Cerezo.
The production came to La MaMa at the recommendation of Antonio Cerezo,
an actor from Mexico City, who had hoped to appear in a production of
the play there that did not come to fruition. Knowing of La MaMa's reputation
as a "theater of the world," he facilitated the English adaptation
by Edith Luna and proposed it to the attention of director Raine Bode,
who selected it for her project this year.
"The Bitterness of the Meringue" was written soon after Kuri
came to the U.S. in 2001 with "De monstrous y prodigiosla Historia
de los Castrati: Monsters and Prodigies," performed by Compañía
Nacional de Teatro de México as part of the International Hispanic
Theater Festival at the Duke Theatre on 42nd Street. That play, directed
by his Claudio Valdes Kuri, used extreme physical comedy coupled with
live vocal, violin and harpsichord performances to explore the allegedly
castrated male sopranos who turned the Baroque world upside down with
their angelic voices and outrageous lifestyles. Ruth Lemmen, writing in
Culturebase (online at http://www.culturebase.net/artist.php?56), states
that the production was received enthusiastically at festivals in Europe,
the USA and Mexico, establishing the director's international reputation.
Director Raine Bode has been steadily involved with La MaMa since 2000,
working on such product ions as Ellen Stewart's "Seven Against Thebes"
and "Dionysus Filius Dei" and "Sound of The Sun" by
Arthur Maximillian Adair. She made her NY directorial debut in 2002 with
"Bow Down" in The Club at La MaMa, and followed last season
with "Dipteracon, or Short Lived S%*t Eaters," a Greek tragedy
rock musical based on Jean-Paul Sartre's "The Flies." Prior
to coming to New York, she was co-founder and artistic director of Mongrel
Theatre, an independent company in Baltimore, MD.