Although Mexico City’s spring 2012 theatre season lacked blockbuster, large-scale masterpieces, it had a number of excellent, noteworthy plays among its prolific, multi-faceted productions. As in seasons past, it once again boasted in excess of 150 plays during any given week (except Semana Santa). A number of plays lingered from past years, particularly in commercial venues (such as Susan Hill and Stephen Mallatrat’s thriller La dama de negro and Rob Becker’s Defendiendo al cavernícola), but the vast majority of plays had short runs. Even a commercial success such as La vuelta al mundo en ochenta días had an initial run of only nine performances. Although Mexico was inundated with political propaganda in advance of its July elections, politics did not spill overtly into plays more than other years, and I didn’t find any that addressed the current campaign in a significant way. In May, Carlos Fuentes’ death caught the attention of the literary world, but Paul McCartney’s free concert in the Zócalo seemed to affect theatre more—getting past police blockades to arrive at theatres within 5-6 blocks of the concert was challenging! All in all, the season had many excellent offerings, some of the most noteworthy of which this essay highlights.
Most of the season’s finest plays had a decidedly negative societal outlook, despite light moments. For me, the season’s most noteworthy play was Siglo XX… que estás en los cielos in a brilliantly Mexicanized version. The original was written by David Desola, a playwright from Cataluña, Spain. In the original, the main characters were a victim of the Spanish Civil War and a victim of drug abuse in Spain from the 1970s. A third character remained off stage, but spoke with the two. In the version I saw, adapted to Mexico by Fernando Bonilla, who also designed the set and directed, the main characters were a victim of the 1968 student massacre at [End Page 147]
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Tlatelolco and a victim of the Ciudad Juárez feminicide. It was staged eight times at the Orientación theatre as part of a Bellas Artes trio of plays under the banner of “JóvenesAlTeatro: Ciclo de Teatro para Jóvenes.” The voice in this version belonged to Mexico’s “Niño Dios,” and rather than being a disembodied voice from offstage, puppeteers Valentina Sierra and Carmín Flores rolled a puppet version of the infant deity onto the stage on a globe of the world and Sierra provided his voice. In addition, Bonilla added to the cast an eternally grinning but mute Mexican conception of death. The play represented an odd state of limbo, one in which the victims waited for reincarnation until no one remaining on Earth remembered them. The set consisted of a somewhat dismal row of connecting seats in the middle of the stage, reminiscent of a small town waiting room at a bus station. Death appeared on the stage prior to each scene, each time dressed in different bright clothing and often as a circus performer, juggling balls or riding a unicycle or dancing, always in celebration, always panning to the audience with his eternal smile. The “Niño Dios” had a wonderfully quirky personality—a spoiled brat of a child, full of tantrums and insults when he didn’t get his way. He delighted in tormenting the other two characters by telling them that if they didn’t perform for him the last persons alive who remembered [End Page 148] them would die. He would then demand that they perform in ways that were either extremely uncomfortable or impossible for them, and would follow up by mocking their efforts. The characters themselves exchanged extensive dialogue, learning about each other, wondering about their current circumstances, and comparing notes about Mexico from their different eras. Eventually they bonded in their desolation, and arranged a deal to return to earth together as twins. Moments after they left the stage, a radio announcement noted the birth...