Classic works revisited on the Cuban stage

Fortunately, Carlos Celdrán, Jorge Alba and Nelson Dorr himself have coincided in this current theatre season, premiering works categorized as essentials of both world and national theatre.

Over the coming months Havana will be able to appreciate versions of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare; A doll's house, by Henrik Ibsen; and Virgilio Piñera's Dos viejos pánicos.

They are arriving to Cuban stages with a dramatic concept which speaks to today's complex and diverse audiences, making them, and even the playwright, forget about time; offering new meaning to the work. Dorr, Celdrán and Alba clearly use these brilliant texts as a way to address current problems.

In Havana's Mella Theatre, Nelson Dorr – who has brought more than 100 titles to the stage, from a variety of genres and formats, including monologue, opera, musical theatre, and authors from all ages and latitudes – revisits Macbeth, one ofShakespeare's most famous tragedies, considered to be his most demanding.

In numerous interviews the maestro has said that with regard to both classic and contemporary works his objective is to converse with the texts and their time periods. For him they are "classics," because they can be constantly revisited and recreated in new times.

Now, he has adapted Macbeth forhis company, and his leading lady,Gladys Casanova -playing the role ofLady Macbeth – recalled, in a brief conversation in the gardens of the Llauradó hall, that the work "is a continuation of the classics which the maestro has been debuting since 2011, starting with Medea and later Othello."

For this new piece – stated Casanova – Nelson Dorr has created "an interesting set and lighting design, likewise with the music which is protagonist throughout."

The actress recalled that she started out in theatre "precisely with her brother Nicolás Dorr in the Mella Theatre where I premiered La Chacota" until it closed, subsequently devoting herself to children's theatre for 45 years. "And now I am reunitng with Nelson, I have performed Medea, Othello and now Macbeth. The maestro, has given me the great honor of portraying Lady Macbeth and I am happy to be able to play a such an important and challenging character for any actress."Meanwhile, the in the Argos Theatre's small performance space, Carlos Celdrán, among the most interesting and evocative directors of contemporary Cuban theater, once again turns to parable to discuss current issues.

It is well known that Celdran doesn't treat classic texts like museum artifacts to be venerated, but as works able to speak to contemporary spectators and generate reflection on present reality.

He has done this with Safo, based on a short story by Marguerite Yourcenar; Baal by Bertolt Brecht; Life is a dream by Calderón de la Barca, Miss Julie by Strindberg and Stockman, an enemy of the people by Henrik Ibsen.

Celdran now brings Mecánica to the Argos Theatre, a piece by Abel González Melo inspired by another of Ibsen's works, A doll's house; a version of this famous classic from a slightly unusual perspective about which young actor Carlos Luis González – well-known given his many appearances on Cuban television – spoke to Granma International

Is this your return to theatre?

"I think I was away from theatre for too long. Carlos Celdrán gave me this opportunity to return and take on a leading role with a text by Abel adapted from A doll's house, meaning a double challenge.For me it has been a very good experience. I have always regarded theatre as a sacred temple, but in order to enter you have to be well prepared. I wasn't completely prepared but I had a director likeCarlos Celdrán."

What twists can we expect from Melo and Celdrán this time?

"There are many twists. Contemporizing Ibsen is quite a daring feat as it is. The main twist is that my character Osvaldo (Torvald) Telmer is Nora. The roles are reversed, he is a house husband, and takes care of everything, and is under constant pressure. It was something very daring of Abel, and in my opinion very wise. The play is set in present day Cuba, in a hotel suit in Varadero."

In Varadero, unlike in Chamaco and Talco, two works byGonzález Melo and directed by Celdran, which delve into the underworld streets of Havana, and received public and critical acclaim… "Mecánica defends and criticizes Cuba's Nouveau riche, and perhaps there aren't many texts which speak about the issue. Abel breaks with his customary portrayal of marginal and underground worlds; he makes a change and brings white collar characters to the stage."

Why the title? "He talks about this all the time, how the mechanism of this world of new businessmen, of the daddy's boys, functions."

The third work presented this season is also a complex one. The Alba Theatre Studio, managed by Jorge Alba, returns with Dos viejos pánicos a classic text byVirgilio Piñera and of Cuban theatre.

Alba premiers his work in the Llauradó hall, which he has entitled Lacto- soy, a play on words which the Cuban public will understand, as it is a food product given to elderly people on the island.

"Virgilio presents the common thread – milk – and then I modernized it. We made a summary of this broad and wordy text, of course using elements of the absurd, where the principle idea is fear, a recurring theme in his work."

Is it geared toward an elderly audience?

"I think that an elderly spectator can identify with it just as much as any other. It reflects on this stage of life. The characters ask themselves what they have done, what they can still do."

Does the play remain true to the way Piñera wrote it?

"Piñera's work is a play with a humorous tone, I wanted to make it an outright comedy, but with character. The characters have very strong mentalities, they are dramatic, but the result for the public is amusing. Irony and sarcasm are frequently used, and some elements of the grotesque and dark humor can also be appreciated at certain moments."

In fact Piñera's characters play with death…"that's right, they try to kill each other. What can be more grotesque than that? In a search for the truth they play a sinister game in which one "kills" (metaphorically) the other, and at the same time they kill themselves. It's absurd but there is also a logic and depth to what is being said.

They are more afraid of the life than of death; a warning against ending up like the protagonists Tavo and Tota. You have to do what you want, look inside yourself, to what you truly are."

However, he uses young actors…."We do intense character development for a reason. There is a speech in the play in which they stop playing the old neurotics and become actors who analyze the characters. They do this analysis because we are all going to get old."

Three excellent works in this Havana theatre season, in which Nelson Dorr, Carlos Celdrán and Jorge Alba offer a radical reworking of Macbeth, A doll's house and Dos viejos pánicos proving the contemporary character of these classics.

original report here