Playwright and director Mariano Pensotti returns to Seattle with a new theatrical production that, using unconventional set design, becomes almost filmic in its effect. I saw his last production at On the Boards a few years back, El Pasado es un Animal Grotesco, which you can see at ontheboards.tv.
I think others were more charmed than I was by the play’s hip blend of absurd vignettes and (very) loosely connected plot lines of self-absorbed, young South Americans finding and losing love (and a severed hand). The use of wry, omniscient narration helped to convey some things that were too subtle to perceive in the flurry of action on its rotating stage, divided into four settings that changed rapidly. This is part of what gave it a filmic quality, as it collectively accomplished what close-ups and tight editing can do. This, however, felt like a crutch after a point, when the plot itself was too weak to stand a conventional staging. The whole text was more droll than deep, more quirky than earnest, which would be fine if it didn’t seem to present itself as so much more than that. In short, I walked out saying, “So Argentina has hipsters, too.” And that’s about it.
I hope you are still reading, because in spite of all of that, I also saw that Pensotti has a great deal of vision and ingenuity. As a young auteur his experiments will not always be entirely successful, but I am excited to see what he does going forward. And now we get the chance to do just that, as On the Boards presents his latest work, Cineastas.
Based on the premise of his new work, Cineastas, Pensotti has latched onto the strongest quality of his previous work—that filmic effect reproduced on the stage—and really mined that effect itself for its artistic and philosophical content. Rather than a rotating stage, the stage is split into upper and lower halves. Below, the lives of four filmmakers play out, while their “film lives” play above.
As above, so below…and which imitates which, life or art? These kind of meta-narratives have been posed for decades, but they are still as vital as ever. I tend to point out David Lynch and Chris Marker as two filmmakers whose work is designed to show how films control and manipulate their audiences, and then demonstrate it by doing just that.
I believe we will see shades of that on stage, which is a rare feat. From the press release from On the Boards:
Cineastas resulted from a series of interviews conducted by Pensotti with the many filmmakers currently working in the booming Buenos Aires film scene. Especially curious about how personal circumstances affected their work and vice versa, Pensotti expanded the piece into a completely fictionalized account where reality and fiction seamlessly merge.
Pensotti ingeniously adapts cinematic techniques—voice-over, fades, panoramic long takes—for the stage, resulting in an intricate portrait of a city, its inhabitants, and a specific epoch.
This is one of On the Board’s biggest shows of the season, and its perfect for theatre- and film-lovers alike. And if you are not a football fan and wish to escape the 12th Man Mania sweeping the city on game day, I can think of no better sanctuary.
Mariano Pensotti’s Cineastas
In Spanish with English surtitles
When: January 29 – 31, 8 PM. February 1, 5 PM.
Where: On the Boards (100 West Roy Street)
Tickets: $25 for adults. $12 under 25. (On Sunday, because it’s game day, tickets are $23)