In the post-show discussion with the cast and a producer of Argentinian Timbre 4’s 814th performance and US debut of Tercer Cuerpo (3rd Wing) we learned that there are about 750 theater performances per week in Buenos Aires, mainly by 300 small theaters scattered throughout the city of a population of nearly 16 million people. Reportedly many of these theater groups came to be during an earlier Argentinian economic crisis. This theater group, Tercer Cuerpo, survives largely because it runs a school for 750 students with Claudio Tolcachir as its Director.
Most of these small theaters, according to the program, have annual budgets that rarely exceed $300 and many companies operate without pay. “Timbre 4, like many of its independent peers, maintains fluid programming that allows for long rehearsal periods and multiyear runs.
The script as others by Timbre 4, was blocked out in great detail and rehearsed extensively before it was brought to the public. If the post-show discussion is an indicator, the enthusiasm of this troupe for their company is real and passionate. They described their method-acting techniques, and indeed, from the front rows you could easily see that several of the actors were crying and that their performance emotion carried over into the post-show discussion.
That all this started in Claudio Tolcachir’s living room might not be that surprising to a Chicagoan who has been blown away by performances at Chicago’s Trap Door where the actors passed the hat for compensation or those of us who were with Chicago Shakespeare long ago when its home was the back of a bar.
This experimental theater group felt more familiar than foreign, albeit the need for English translations was a constant reminder that we were seeing something from afar. We seemed to be sharing in the ability of our world to let itsy theater groups go global. Is this how Germans feel when they see exported Trap Door productions that leave their local Chicago performance space empty?
The story of Tercer Cuerpo takes place in an office where workers were involved in letter writing and believe email has made them redundant. Closing the office down has seemingly been forgotten, and it’s not quite clear what work is being done. Each of the three characters and a couple struggling with their varying expectations for a relationship are each experiencing loneliness but in different ways. At one point a few of them ask, paraphrasing, “How on earth do people pull off a life filled with intimacy and connection?” In some moments quite funny, and at times very sad, the story is basically watching these five individuals try to break out of their lonely cocoon to make human connections.
Much as when you travel abroad you end up realizing how little you know about local things the longer you stay, the production raised more questions about the Argentinian theater scene than it answered. Is the sort of anomia the play demonstrated with quirky but very likeable characters a common theme in Argentina? When Tolcachir directed the Argentinian premiere of Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County” did he “Latinize” it? Do performers drop in and out of the theater scene as they struggle to survive, as so many Chicago actors who don’t hit the big time do? Does the middle class (and upper classes) in Buenos Aires not have a tradition of supporting the arts as we do here?
That we are left wondering more about Argentinian theater than before we walked in speaks to the MCA’s success in showcasing provocative and off-beat works that might otherwise not get a stage. Better yet, your tickets to these mind-expanding performances serve as a ticket to the MCA Museum for the following week.
There are six more performances produced by MCA Stage before year’s end.
You can get tickets and information on the MCA Performance website or call 312 397 4010.
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Claudio Tolcachir. Photo: Gustavo Pascaner
All other photos: Giampaolo Samá.