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Vargas Unravels the Espíritu Humano in La Razón Blindada

24th Street Theatre

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by Ernest Kearney — No matter the eventual opinions they may form or the feelings they may carry home with them afterwards, when an audience steps into the realm of the 24th Street Theatre they can be assured of two things: First, that the presentation awaiting them on the stage of the former carriage house will oscillate with a vitality that is Promethean. Second, it will blaze with the resplendence that is the very essence of the theatre.

Whenever I tell someone what I find so wonderfully unique about the work that Jay McAdams and Debbie Devine are doing at the 24th Street Theatre the tendency is for the listener to stare at me in a patient perplexity, as if I’ve given them the solution to a difficult brain-scratcher.

How can FIVE minus two equal 4?

Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the world’s highest mountain?

Then the eyelids start fluttering, the foreheads compact into wrinkled rivulets, and the nasty suspicion begins to creep over them that with the answer I’ve supplied I might be jerking them around.

But I’m not.

What is so incredibly unique about the work being done by McAdams and Devine is that they are doing – theatre.

Not restaging old warhorses –

Not providing sit-com writers with a stage to put up that play they wrote back in college –

Not allowing young Hollywood stars of tomorrow to stomp about and mumble in front of an audience to show their agents and the press that they’re totally serious about the acting thing –

No Neil Simon, no Movies-of-the-Week with the camera angles taken out, no fraudulent antebellum dramas about Jewish slaves, no one person shows about an individual’s inspiring struggle to surmount the tragedy of a hangnail.

None of that.

What the 24th Street Theatre is doing is – theatre.

La Razon Blindada-24th Street Theatre

Tony Durán and Jesús Castaños-Chima (Photo by Juan Tallo – Courtesy of 24th Street Theatre)

In past works such as Man Covets Bird, Hansel and Greta: Bluegrass, and the universally beloved Walking the Tightrope, McAdams and Devine epitomize the elements of theatre spun from the golden thread of imagination and magic.

In their production of La Vispera (The Eve), a work created with the residents of the 24th Street neighborhood, McAdams and Devine demonstrated an understanding of the power of theatre to create “Community.”

In their current production of Argentinean playwright Arístides Vargas’ La Razón Blindada (Armored Reason) not only are all the strengths of theatre on view, but a demonstration of what the mastery of those strengths can accomplish.

Vargas, who also directs, has drawn the work’s inspiration from his own life.

During the dictatorship of Argentina’s “Dirty War” (1969/1974-1983) Vargas was able to flee the country.  His brother was not so fortunate and was imprisoned and tortured by the regime.  While held, one “kindness” was extended to the political prisoners.  For a single hour a week two prisoners were allowed to sit at a table with their hands flat on the tabletop.

As McAdams related:

“If they stood up they were shot.  If they took their hands off the table they were shot.”

But for that single hour the two prisoners were free to talk, to hope, to dream.

As the old adage goes, “When the world has gone mad, madness is the only sanctuary offered the sane.”

Working with the testimonies of his brother Chicho Vargas and other prisoners at the time, and drawing from Die Wahrheit über Sancho Pansa (The Truth about Sancho Panza) by Franz Kafka, Vargas has created a madcap world that whirls about the 24th Street stage with a velocity that would dwarf the combined force of Irma and Harvey.

La Razon Blindada-24th Street Theatre

Jesús Castaños-Chima and Tony Durán (Photo by Juan Tallo – Courtesy of 24th Street Theatre)

Two prisoners De La Mancha (Jesús Castaňos-Chima) and Panza (Tony Durán) use that hour to re-tell the stories of another great madman, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

In these stories the pain and suffering of their current state is defused and denied.  It is a contest between the human spirit and those who would suppress it.

Castaňos-Chima and Durán, who was so memorable in Walking the Tightrope, possess the stage to an extent rarely seen, both physically and emotionally, and no roller coaster at Magic Mountain can match the heights and descents they provide.

Vargas’ direction is emotionally full, as can be understood from the nature of the material.  Hope, despair, rage; there is not a base he leaves untouched as he gives form to the explosion on stage.

He also brings forth that savior of mankind: laughter.

La Razón Blindada achieves many things on stage, it is disturbing, hopeful, insightful but more than anything else, it is staggeringly funny.

I cannot recall a show where physical comedy has been so prominent to the story or as superbly performed.

Dialogue of this show is in Spanish with English sub-titles projected above the stage.  As a non-Spanish speaker the sub-titles could have been held slightly longer, but the language of the play should not discourage one from flocking to this show, nor would will it prevent one from enjoying this marvelous production.

The hope spoken of by the human spirit is fluent to all.

♦    ♦    ♦

La Razón Blindada (“Armored Reason”)
written and directed by
Arístides Vargas

Continuing Performance Schedule from Sept. 9 – Oct. 15

• Saturdays at 3 p.m.:
Sept. 9 (Opening), Sept. 16, Sept. 23, Sept. 20; Oct. 7, Oct. 14

• Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.:
Sept. 9 (Opening), Sept. 16, Sept. 23, Sept. 30; Oct. 7, Oct. 14

• Sundays at 3 p.m.:
Sept. 10, Sept. 17, Sept. 24, Oct. 1, Oct. 8, Oct. 15

at the

24th Street Theatre
1117 West 24th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007-1725

For Tickets and Additional Information
(213) 745-6516 or go to www.24thstreet.org

 


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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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