I saw three shows at Madrid’s eccentrically named FESTIVAL DE OTOÑO EN PRIMAVERA (Fall Festival in Springtime), which brought a plethora of international theater to the Spanish capital in May and June.

My listening comprehension of Spanish is what it is, so I would not pretend to have followed every thread of the multiple plots that made up the first show on my itinerary, Mariano Pensotti’s El pasado es un animal grotesco. But the cast arrested me with its dedication, technique and ability, and the ingenious staging (a revolving platform divided into plain wooden quadrants) was perfectly realized. The complex plotting has much to say about the recent history of Argentina, although it can be a little perverse, especially during certain sexual incidents related to a severed hand.

Ferdana Orazi’s impressive  Susana en el agua y con la boca abierta, also from Argentina, is a meditation on the suicide of Hamlet’s rejected lover Ophelia. It is a brief, lyrical poem in dialogue and movement, performed on a sparsely furnished stage by two actresses who are precise and deeply engaged in the situation. I recommend it highly, and should think it would be successful in New York at an international festival, or perhaps in translation.

The English-German-Austrian production of Sweet Nothings is even more ready made for BAM or the Lincoln Center Festival. It would be absurd if a New York run is not in the works. The director Luc Bondy makes it clear that Arthur Schnitzler at his best is the equal of Ibsen, Strindberg or the other great Naturalists, in whose company he belongs despite the tendency to categorize him as primarily a formal innovator (because of La Ronde) and a decadent (because he was turn-of-the-century Viennese).

It is true that his plays are structurally more fragmented than those of the average Naturalist, but in fact, Strindberg was as much a formalist, and decadence was the subject matter of Schnitzler’s Naturalism, not an Ism unto itself. This production is remarkable in both its acting and its staging, and I was especially taken by Kate Burdette’s rendition of Christine – little by little her soul is chipped away at until only a splinter remains.

For more on the festival, click here.

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