Meat Prices Rising (Subió la Carne)
By Argento, Pazos, Pesqueira
Directed by Carlo Argento
Produced by Teatro de la Luna
Reviewed by Rosalind Lacy
Meat Prices Rising (Subió la Carne) has an enticing, juicy title. This loosely constructed cabaret act seems to be saying: okay, the economy is shot to hell, so let’s make fun of everything sacred. And that’s exactly what two tremendously talented Argentine actors, Claudio Pazos and Francisco Pesqueira, and their director, Carlo Argento, do as they impersonate a multitude of characters, sing with operatic voices at highpoint moments, and make us laugh at such fears as a failing economy or runaway inflation. (Argentina is well-known for government debt and inflations that resulted in 2001 food riots.)
Onstage stands a clothes rack that prepares us for the miraculous whirlwind of costumes changes and character transformations ahead. Here’s the setup stated in the program: “Do what you do…you’ll be criticized. So do what you want. We’re all meat for the critic.” A series of slap-stick cabaret vignettes follow: Society all around us is the meat. All is ripe for ridicule.
Both actors start off their act dressed the same so that they look like twins in long black haired wigs. “When are they going to rebuild the Twin Towers?” asks one. Then both actors change into red ponchos with knit wool hats, as if they’re Native Indians from the Andes Mountains. The dialogue takes off in different directions, aiming barbs at the educational system, such as using “See Jane run. Run, Jane run,” to teach reading, and at Hollywood for casting Latino male actors as the “Second Indian.”
The funniest sequence that really hits Americans (and most Europeans) where it hurts is the one with racial overtones. One actor, dressed as The Little White Angel free associates on the question: Why is the color white good? The Virgin is white, but so is cocaine and toilet paper. So why is black dirty? The White Angel pleads to be painted black by the other actor, dressed as a Renaissance artist, until finally the Angel, with his face splattered with black paint, is left standing alone, crying.
Another highpoint is the lampoon of same-sex marriage with a disapproving judge presiding over the civil ceremony. Other targets are elder care and child abuse, even folk singers who perform native music and sell CDs. The Argentine gaucho cowboy, a national symbol, receives a few barbs. Disdain for the ways of the Old World come out in the scene about Caesarean child birth and women with large families. Whatever happened to respect for the fertility goddess, the Earth Mother?
Comic actors Pazos and Pesqueira hit the mark with their parodies of Catholic ritual and in drawing out audience participation with rhythmic clapping to the music, especially in the male striptease, but where the performers miss is as script writers. The promise in the title, Meat Prices Rising, isn’t fulfilled. These random, unconnected sketches are tantalizing tidbits that need more narrative, even a story line. For example, here’s one topical political allusion: “We could have had Margaret Thatcher as president,” says one actor, referring to the six weeks war, in which the British expelled the invading Argentine forces and protected their colony. But after that remark, the actor drops the subject. Does an American audience member remember? An Argentine audience may be reminded that the Falklands War in 1982 ironically ended a debilitating military regime and the “dirty war,” that brought so much personal sufferings to the families of the ordinary people who mysteriously disappeared as political prisoners from everyday life. I wish the leaders in the 1970s and 80s had been held up to ridicule. Was it gross economic mismanagement that led to Argentina’s economic problems that persisted into the 1990s and the 21st century?
For Argentina’s entry to the Eleventh International Festival of Hispanic Theater, the translator David Bradley does a commendable job in making the Spanish understandable in English as do Marcela Ferlito and Oscar Ceville as English dubbers.
Running Time: About 1:30. No intermission. Audio headsets available for English translation.
When: Two performances remain. Saturday, 3 p.m & 8 p.m.; Nov. 8, 2008. The Eleventh Teatro de la Luna International Hispanic Festival continues next week, with Doubt (La Duda), by John Patrick Shanley, winner of a 2005 Pulitzer Prize, performed by a Venezuelan theater company, Thurs, Fri., Nov. 13, 14, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 15, 3 p.m. & 8 p.m.
Where: Gunston Arts Center-Theater Two, 2700 South Lang St., Arlington, VA 22206. Free Parking. Run, Firebelly Productions, 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington, VA 22205. Free parking in limited space lot and on the street.
Tickets: $30, regular admission; Students and Seniors over 60, $25. $10 discount, if bought online.
Post-Performance Discussion: every Friday night.
Childcare provided during Sat. matinees, 24 hour notice required, $10 per child.
Info and Reservations: Call 703-548-3092 or 202-882-6227; Consult the website