Tonight’s your last chance to see Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol. Their second play in the festival, Asalto al Agua Transparente, closes tonight at 6:30pm at Bodyvox. The only performers to present two productions at this year’s festival, the young Mexico City-based theater collective has been wowing audiences with the technical complexity and ambition of their productions.
Their first show, El Rumor del Incendio, was a sprawling drama that told the historically-inspired tale of a series of guerilla insurrections in Mexico in the sixties and seventies that were brutally stamped out. The show primarily follows one women, interlacing the bigger political history with her own participation in the insurrections, but also interweaving small personal stories as she fell in and out of love, progressed in her career, and had children. The similarities with Big Art Group’s The People—Portland were immediate, topically and technically: both used small personal stories to tell bigger political and historical narratives, both cleverly used real time video feeds to create effects far beyond their lo-fi sets (Rumor projected video of dioramas and small plastic soldiers onto a big screen for its battle scenes). Yet for all the mess they made of the stage, Lagartijas’s energetic actors worked as a finely tuned instrument (they had to be in sync with the supertitles, after all), while Big Art’s production thrived on mess.
That praise sung, Rumor did not translate well for an audience unversed in Mexican history. There were simply too many names and events to keep track of. Afterward, I ran across the street for the end of Ira Glass’s talk, and Rumor would’ve benefited greatly from his advice and deft editing (This American Life recently did a somewhat similar show about repression in Guatemala that was excellent). While it successfully pulled us in with a personal narrative, Rumor could’ve benefited from cutting its historical info in half, showing us instead of telling us, and better introducing and identifying the characters. That said, from what I hear, it played for hugely popular and extended runs in Mexico, and I can imagine if an American company did a similar show about the 1968 riots here, where we know the players, we’d have no such complaint.
The company’s second show, Asalto al Agua Transparente, had no such problems. Although it’s much more epic in scope, it’s a universal story that American audiences can not only follow, but that directly applies to us: why do humans choose to live places that are so unsustainable? In the process, the play succeeds at a most difficult task: making a story about an environmental problem captivating—and even entertaining.
Once again, the company interweaves a personal narrative—this time the story of a young woman who moves to Mexico city from her small town with unbridled hope—with a historic one: the story of the lakes around Mexico City that have been drained from some 2000 square kilometers when the Aztecs first arrived to a mere 10 square kilometers today. The stories parallel each other in that they both start with a dream, but turn into a nightmare.
But through multimedia, movement, dialogue, and a whole lot of throwing and banging of the various flea market props on stage (the set ends up even more of a mess than Rumor or The People—Portland), not to mention tightly wound performances by the company’s founding members, Luisa Pardo and Gabino Rodriguez, the show exposed the troubling relationship between all the things we think we want, and the destruction those choices are creating on our environments. And it brought the relationship alive without hitting us over the head with it. Ira Glass would’ve been proud.
Asalto al Agua Transparente closes tonight at Bodyvox at 6:30. The other not to miss show tonight (or of the festival) is The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller with Yo La Tengo at Washington High School at 6:30pm and 8:30pm.