Friday, February 15, 2008
LAS CHICAS DEL 3.5" FLOPPIES
Written by Luis Enrique Gutiérrez Ortiz Monasterio
Directed by John Tiffany
Featuring: Aída López and Gabriela Murray
El Centro Su Teatro, Denver, February 14, 15, 16
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, February 21, 22, 23
7 Stages, Atlanta, February 28, 29, March 1, 2
Luis Enrique Gutiérrez Ortiz Monasterio - LEGOM - has made a name for himself as the enfant terrible of contemporary Mexican theater. His previous works include Diatriba Rustica para Faraones Muertos, De Bestias Criaturas y Perras, Los Restos de la Netarina, and Portal. Las Chicas del 3.5" Floppies is the only LEGOM play I've seen, but I have to say, give me more.
This play is raw, unsentimental, and brutal in its impact. It's not for the squeamish, and definitely is adults only. The characters are two women trying to survive in the underbelly of a Mexican city. They live day-to-day, night-to-night is more exact, earning money through prostitution so that they can buy drugs and waste the night away at the 3.5" Floppies club. Their meager existence is depressing to those outside it, yet the women exhibit an honest self-awareness and allow for no self-pity or regret. They aren't heroines, no "whores with hearts of gold" here. But they are rich in the textures and coarseness of humanity stripped of pretense and ambiguity. LEGOM has created two people who jump off the stage and into the bellies of the audience, if not the hearts.
The story is told through the conversation of the two, and López and Murray are excellent as they bicker back-and-forth, arguing, cajoling one another with crude humor and obscene slang, or plotting how to get to the next high. López is the older woman, the teacher, the wise one, the one who has seen it all and knows too well where the younger one is headed. The younger one is oblivious to her own degradation, even though she understands her plight. Her almost wide-eyed innocent outlook can be funny, in a gallows humor fashion. The women look sleazy and wrung out; they barter with their children's futures; they relate to the men in their lives only in terms of money or drugs; and they repeat their mistakes as though they have no choice but even if they did, this would be their road.
The play is performed in Spanish with English translations projected on a screen behind and above the actors. The set is minimal: a table, two beat-up stools, a statute of the Virgin surrounded by a neon frame, and a bucket and a mop that the older woman furiously uses to clean the floor of her apartment. Is she scrubbing away the past, her sins, the younger woman's intrusion, or does she want a really clean floor?
LEGOM's play is traveling through the United States as part of the Performing Americas Project of the National Performance Network (NPN). According to the NPN website, the NPN "provides support for established and emerging artists in dance, music, theater, performance art, puppetry, and spoken word. It serves as the developmental rung on the ladder for emerging contemporary performing artists because it provides rare or first-time touring opportunities. NPN also plays a critical role for mid-career and established artists who continue to create new work and to tour on the network because it offers a wealth of opportunities at a time when support is diminishing. Equally important, NPN connects artists with progressive presenters, arts organizations, and communities across the country."
I saw the play on Valentine's Day -- not exactly the type of romantic comedy one would expect on the holiday of love, but then, why not? Is there a "right time" for this type of theater? I think the answer is - whenever you get the chance.