It’s not too controversial to say that Western civilisation has been built upon the Platonic foundations of dualism: soul and body, idealism and realism, the intelligible world and the visible one, the good and the bad. This latest dichotomy has been fully developed by Catholicism, placed geographically (‘up in Heaven – down in Hell’) and embodied by two famous Biblical characters: Cain and Abel.
In Terrenal, the laureate, playwright, director, and teacher Mauricio Kartun goes back to biblical intertextuality – as he has already done in Salomé de Chacra – and brings to reality the idea of a “mythical God, a perfect metaphor, a left-winged entity” as he would define it, together with a revised story of the two biblical brothers.
The lights are dim, the stage design creates the illusion of perspective, and two men dressed in characteristic clothes tell us that we are located in a rural area somewhere in the late 50s. They start talking, but their language is confusing, demanding our attention, playing by its own rules. The men are located significantly apart from one another but the rivalry between them is easily perceived.
Something in the early scenes reminds me of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It could be the fact that these gauchesca versions of Cain and Abel are two isolated souls waiting to be redeemed by someone. Or that the absurdist dialogues have a coherence buried deep inside their self-taught language.
Perhaps it’s the antagonism we see between Abel, a distressed soul overwhelmed by solitude but with a noble and hypersensitive heart and a sense of communist solidarity, and Caín, the capitalist always playing the victim and ready to condemn. Or is it the arrival of “Tatita” a flawless image of God, a non-repressive entity, a father, a grandfather, an anxiolytic being, someone we are all waiting for and who defines our existential purpose in the meantime?
It doesn’t take long to realise that this creation is a masterpiece. The script is a melange, a combination of biblical phrases, a deconstruction of the language itself, a ping-pong of short questions and answers, each carrying an explicit morale, witty, absurdist but with a clear conducting line. The acting is superb, grotesque, and intense. With a perfect command of their bodies, their speech, and their movements the three Claudios – Claudio Da Passano, Claudio Martinez Bel and Claudio Rissi – leave the audience flabbergasted.
It has all been said and yet words fail to describe this gem – I would have loved this parallel reality to go on forever. I left the theatre with a sense of happiness and fulfillment that overwhelmed my soul, now filled with that fuel for living: vitality. Watching Terrenal is about art and its capacity to be extraordinary. These are earthly Gods, standard-bearers of creation. Chapeau!
Terrenal is on every Friday (9pm), Saturday (10pm), Sunday (10pm) at Teatro del Pueblo, Av. Roque Saenz Peña 943. Tickets: $130-180.