In The Eggshell (La Cascara del Huevo), a comic-satire conceived by the wonderfully inventive Killbob Theater Company from Cordoba, Argentina, a middle-class family is on a journey to the Super Duper Great Country, which could be any developed country in the world. The travelers are hoping that a mysterious estate settlement will bail them out of their financial problems.
First we hear the eerie sounds of a dog barking in the blackout, a foreboding for what’s ahead. The catchy, original musical arrangement, by Matias Ibarra, announces the entrance of the three-person acting team onto a bare, black box stage. An elderly maiden Auntie (Mariela Carrera), is traveling to hear the reading of the will that promises her an inheritance, left to her in the old country. Younger relatives, the young Mother, ( Daniela Trakal) and Daddy, (Matias Ibarra) are her companions and guardians. From overhead speakers, an airport official speaks with authority, like the voice of God:
Have you paid your fees? Cha-ching (vocal sounds imitating a cash-register)
“What’s the purpose of your visit?”
“Have you trafficked in drugs?”
“Do you have subversive ideas?”
The tempo speeds up: “Are you carrying needles, scissors, knives, automatic machine guns, grenades, or nitro-glycerine…?”
Delightfully bizarre costumes, by Babel RA, set this acting troupe apart and help us understand the black-and-white extremes of these characters’ lives. Daniela Trakal, who doubles the Mother and the Maid/Baby-sitter; Matias Ibarra as Daddy, and the strange guy, Lampour; Mariela Carrera as the Bratty Kid and the Auntie, look like paper-doll cutouts, wearing wild headdresses or painted helmets, in black-and-white. The characters are dressed in tailor-made, shiny white outfits, trimmed in black. As the actors stare hypnotically straight ahead, we are thrust into their cartoon-like, dysfunctional world where even gargantuan-sized luggage and carry-on flight bags are flattened, as if borrowed from an ink drawing.
Wide-eyed with anxiety, the actors break into a soft-shoe routine, reminiscent of a 1940’s or 50’s Hollywood musical. Remember the commanding voice of the choreographer, in Michael Bennett’s break-out Broadway musical, A Chorus Line? Or the cabaret style of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris? Their influence can be seen in The Eggshell. The staging is as dramatically effective—even riveting—as the traveling trio soft-tap their way through a routine of checking their gigantic bags at the airport, boarding the plane, surviving a bumpy flight, and ultimately getting lost in a strange city.
Choreographer Veronica Martinez does a commendable job of blending foreign influences with the syncopated native rhythms of Latino music in her dance routines that are a fusion of styles that’s distinctly Argentinian. The impact of Michael Jackson’s dance choreography on a younger generation, for example, can be seen in all three actors, as they execute the side-step and slide, do those cool double-takes and snap turns, while undulating their torsos.
Cut to a pivotal scene. In a lightning quick costume change, Mariela Carrera transforms from Auntie into the home-alone, spoiled-brat daughter, all decked out in a private school necktie. Carrera’s winsome acting creates a sympathetic kid who is all pout and schmooze with other teenagers via cell phone, until Mother calls with a warning about answering the door. “The house is in foreclosure,” she says. The family is in financial straits, but auntie’s inheritance is expected to save the day.
Scenes alternate back-and-forth between the U.S. and South America, until the big scene: the reading of the will. Is auntie getting enough money from her legacy to save the family from the foreclosing wolves at the door? Evidently not because when the family returns, Mother has a nervous breakdown. After telling us how sick she is of the how-to books; how to be a super-duper parent, and all the psycho-babble, Trakal, as the Mother, pantomimes a highly dramatic, slow-motion, silent scream, as if a disaster lurks beneath life’s surface, that is only an eggshell.
Up to this point, the cinematic-like plot, similar to a silent film of quick cuts, works beautifully. But in the last scene, Daddy sees something offstage and runs off, his mouth covered as if to vomit. Mother cries out: “Daddy, call the doctor or the morgue, just in case.” Everything had made sense, up to this climactic catastrophe, when the dog’s barking turns into snarling and ugly growls heard through the overhead speakers. The stage is flooded with crimson light. The plot falls apart because we’re never sure how or why the ending event happens or what it means. Only one thing becomes clear: when auntie disappears, the dog Buddy has eaten her up. Why is never answered.
Is the disappearance of Auntie allegorical? To what extent is the legacy from the Super-Duper Great Country a big myth? Have fees from lawyers and notaries, taxes, and the overdue debts devoured her inheritance? Has the house been saved from foreclosure or not? Sometimes raising unresolved questions and merely implying answers aren’t enough. As in the Greek plays when the horrific violence happens offstage, we need a messenger to do some explaining. The dialogue in The Eggshell has exciting potential but needs sharpening and focus. If the playwright decided to pull back from putting the violence onstage, that’s fine, but as is, the play seems unfinished and anticlimactic.
Babel RA, of the Argentine Killbob Company, is deserving of top awards for best creative costuming of the festival. Those crisp white outfits, trimmed in black create dazzling stage imagery.
Each South American country has its own unique history and style, and Teatro de la Luna’s 12th International Festival of Hispanic Theater again has imported world-class, excellently performed, richly satisfying, theatrical experiences into the Washington area.
Cultures, whether through conquest or trade, cross-pollinate and flower. All are fused by one commonality: We’re all immigrants who share a “passion for theater,” the theme of this year’s festival.
Next January the cross-pollination continues with the Children’s Theater Festival, Festival de Teatro para Ninos. On Saturday, January 16, 2010, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., a full day of theatrical performances, bilingual workshops and activities are offered at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre, 1611 N. Kent St., Arlington, VA. Start now. Cross-pollinate the next generation of theater-goers.
The Eggshell (La Cascara del Huevo)
Written and directed by Daniela Trakal
With original music arranged and directed by Matias Ibarra
Produced by Killbob from Cordoba, Argentina
For Teatro de la Luna’s 12th International Festival of Hispanic Theatre
Reviewed by Rosalind Lacy
The Festival has closed.