The Lincoln Center Festival is known for bringing masterpieces of the performing arts to New York City summer after summer. This year, one of these performances was Un Hombre que se Ahoga, which took place at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre from July 17th– 19th. Hailing from Buenos Aires, director and designer, Daniel Veronese, presented his North American premiere as an innovative version of The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov.
Veronese’s pioneer approach to the play included reversing the gender roles of the characters. This reversal was a simple switch of the names; men did not try to outwardly portray a female character, nor did the women attempt to be men. What ensued, as a result, was a more comical approach to an otherwise disheartening story about a society whose dysfunction is brought about by political unrest. For instance, shortly after an argument, one of the military characters played by a female cheerfully chimes in about how she has changed her hairdo and no one has noticed – a seemingly improvised moment. Moments of parody, such as this, are scattered throughout the performance, poking fun at society’s ability to be absurd during the most dismal situations.
Contrary to the elaborate costume and scenery that many Lincoln Center performances are known for, the set for Un Hombre que se Ahoga consisted only of the bare essentials. Antique wooden theatre chairs lined the back of the set, while a worn leather loveseat and a few chairs occupied the center stage. Veronese rid the stage of anything that might superficially interfere with the audience’s reception of the performance.
In addition to the fairly vacant set, Veronese decided against dramatic stage lighting and music, and had his actors perform in “street clothing.” All of the typical theatrical tricks used to evoke particular emotions or responses from the audience were absent. Our eyes were free to roam around off-stage and watch actors that were not necessarily part of a current scene. Our decisions to empathize or be indifferent during certain situations were made independently instead of being goaded by things like distressing stringed instruments or booming drums.
Daniel Veronese allows the actors to truly display their talents; words and their delivery are of utmost importance. Above all, the opportunity given to think freely made being an audience member of Un Hombre que se Ahoga a refreshing theatrical experience.
This is the last week of performances for Lincoln Center Festival 2007. Click here for more information and tickets to upcoming shows.