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Theatre Journal 56.2 (2004) 293-296

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Festival De Théâtre Des Amériques. Montréal. 22 May-8 June 2003.

The biannual Festival de Théâtre des Amériques in Montréal, presented in alternating years with the more focused event Théâtre du Monde, is one of the few North American providers of a world-class program of international performances—surpassing anything in the United States outside of New York City. Founded and led by Marie-Hélène Falcon, the festival is the only venue in North America for many companies. The festival is a showcase for contemporary Québecois theatre as well as for foreign companies, with an emphasis on francophone and Latin American theatre in particular.

The festival main program consisted this year of seventeen performances, eight Canadian (in both French and English) and nine foreign. In addition, a half-dozen new French Canadian productions were featured in a parallel series entitled "Nouvelles Scènes." The directors featured in the main program included the Québec-based Robert Lepage (with a new version of his early work, Dragon Trilogy); the German Frank Castorf (The Injured and the Insulted, based on Dostoevsky, performed by the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin); the Flemish Josse de Pauw (with an original work he also wrote entitled Übung, performed by Het Net, Bruges); and the Polish Krzysztof Warlikowski (performing Sarah Kane's Cleansed, a co-production of companies in Warsaw, Poznan, Wroclaw, and Berlin). The international program also included productions from the U.K., Spain, Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina. U.S. companies were conspicuous by their absence from the 2003 festival program.

The productions from Latin America included an all-male staging of Shakespeare's Richard III by Mapa Teatro of Bogotá, Columbia, and a remarkable new Argentinean play Ojos de ciervo rumanos (The Eyes of a Romanian Stag), written and directed by Beatriz Catani. Catani's production was outwardly spare and unadorned, free of any self-conscious directorial flourishes. The play was nevertheless distinguished by the unpretentious directness and conviction of its excellent cast and the poetic density of Catani's text. The play seamlessly blends an unsentimental realism with bold metaphor, political allegory, and a deep mythic structure. It plays like a hybrid of Lorca with the sensibility of Borges and Márquez. An aging widower and struggling gardener raises his daughter in seclusion, her feet literally planted in a pot as if a young sapling being nurtured for his orange grove; [End Page 293] yet, she never comes to fruition as either woman or tree, unable to menstruate or suckle. Her father feeds her with his own blood, which is revealed to be orange juice. She is visited, and courted, by a naïvely vigorous young man who never arrives without a rolling stereo console and a collection of aging LPs. He turns out to be her long-lost brother, separated from the family when their mother, a Romanian singer, was mysteriously killed. The records he brings include songs sung by their dead mother. The characters are all survivors of some catastrophe, at once familial and cosmic. They endure and age, but do not thrive. They love each other, have no one but each other, but cannot overcome the barrenness both within and around them. The characters' warmth and humanity, their combination of sweetness and deep sorrow, are always set against a mysteriously unforgiving fate. In the play's closing moments, the daughter bares her breasts to nurse both her father and her brother—an image of mutual need and vulnerability, as well as of the family becoming a snake swallowing its own tail. The play evokes at times the mythic figures of Dionysos and Semele, at others Orestes and Electra, suggesting a symbolic fable of the larger despair of contemporary Argentina. The intelligence and sincerity of its performance allowed Ojos de ciervo rumanos to become a powerfully soulful cri de coeur. Paula Ituriza as the long-suffering daughter gave one of the most memorable performances of the festival.

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