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[Letter from Mexico] Theater for Hard Times
'Delirium Tremens' nourishes the mind and senses
Michael Werbowski (minou)     Print Article 
Published 2009-06-07 04:19 (KST)   
After a brief stint at the only English language daily 쏷he News as business editor last May, I was summarily dismissed due to a hastened merger with another media group. I had not seen Mexicans (the owners, lawyers, administrators, hired hands), act with such celerity in this country.

Within 48 hours of the announcement of the merger and the sale within the same week, two thirds of the staff, including myself, found themselves out of work. Editors, graphic designers, tech specialists and reporters were all standing 쐀ewildered in the searing sun, fuming mad and dejected by it all. However, I took it all in stride. All this tumult (which is a daily occurrence in this great city) reminded me of a similar scene at another much bigger and more influential newspaper I once wrote and reported for from 2000 until 2003, called 쏣xcelsior in Mexico City.

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In comparison to what we witnessed recently, the 쏣xcelsior takeover and buy-out was a very long drawn-out and painful affair, above all for the former employees of the newspaper. It was bit like a Mexican 쐔ele novella.

Drunken delirium on stage

In order to distract myself from all these unfortunate happenings, I did what officials have been urging citizens of this city to do since the outbreak of the 쐆uman virus in Mexico. They told us to go out and enjoy the cultural life of the city. So, I plunged into the rich, diverse and incredibly vibrant cultural scene of the capital. My first foray was into the world of the theater.

My passion for the stage dates back to my student days, when after long and ponderous lectures, I sought refuge at the 쏬eeds playhouse, which is one of Britain셲 greatest theatrical institutions. On this occasion, I along with other guests attended a presentation of 쏡elirium Tremens. This production was staged at the Saint Catherina Theater, located in Coyocan in the southern part of the city. The theater is small. It has room for about 65 spectators.

Perhaps the perfect intimate setting for this outstanding one act production (the play runs almost 90 minutes) by Mexican author Ignacio Solares. The play was adapted from a book by the same author and with the same title. 쏡elirium Tremens melds on stage the narratives of five characters all consumed by the same affliction and addiction: alcoholism.

Solares deftly transposes himself into the play (his character is brilliantly performed by Jose Maria Mantilla) as a journalist who observes, interviews, and takes notes of three men and two women. Each sequence on stage is seamlessly stitched together. Immediately, we are riveted by the first narrative told by Laura Aida Lopez). It is a pathetic and sordid tale. She relates to us her slow decline, as a single middle aged woman, seeking solace in booze and the company of strange men.

Later in the play, the journalist playing Solares, seeks out a confessional tale from a man, whose family life has dissolved and who moves into his dead parents flat to live alone. He spends his evenings after dull days in the office, in the company of Mozart and his music. Gabriel (Jorge Avalos) imagines or visualizes the great composer on this couch, thanks to the inspirations of the whiskey or Tequila bottle.

Later a young man (Luis Maya) comes on stage and relates his inner demons and nightmares. He is first courted by angels, who progressively transform into monstrous insects seeking to devour him in this drunken madness. His inner tortures become the spectators horrors.

Another painful yet empathetic account is that of an ordinary taxi driver (Salomon Santiago L.) who appears on stage, in a hospital patient gown and slowly pushes an intravenous bag holder on wheels. He also relates his decline into addiction that threatens his life. The most harrowing tale is told by an attractive, apparently upper class, young woman (Edurne Ferrer) who describes how as a teen she began to drink and consume drugs that led to a suicide attempt.

There is an almost religious symbolism to each monologue of the play. Each 쐏atient seeks some kind of spiritual redemption and inner release from the realities of our post modern life styles. It is, as if, for them paradise seemingly, can only be reached by first going through the living hell of dependency. The dialogue between the actor who plays Solares and the family man or Gabriel who is seeking to recover from this illness, is almost like a confessional between a preacher and a sinner.

It then evolves into an almost philosophical discussion on the virtues of creativity, and the glory of genius and the salvation mankind finds in music. Mozart셲 쏳equiem fittingly ends the play and the lights fade out. 쏡elirium Tremens is a theatrical testament of suffering, endurance and emotional triumph over evil and despair, for all Spanish speakers and lovers of great acting to see and experience for themselves.

©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Werbowski

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