I saw Carlos Garcia Estevez's show "Solo dell'Arte" last night in NYC, presented by The Internationalists.
Carlos and Katrien van Beurden are the 'co-artistic leaders' of Teatro Punto, founded in Amsterdam, now based in Madrid.
It is impossible to ignore Carlos' gifts as a physical actor, and from my own perspective he is a lucky bastard to have that which so far eludes me: the European vernacular in his physical vocabulary. In the lengthy lecture with which he begins his show his charm and sense of humor are on display. He certainly has all the skills required to perform a wonderful Commedia demonstration.
So the expectations are high when he picks up the first mask. His modern take on the characters is inspired, he tells us, by such material as poems by Lorca, etc. His Pantalone is an engaging Spaniard named Manuel, who recounts a tale of a love long lost. Then we go back in time and watch a younger, more virile Manuel (in a Capitano mask) drink himself silly and essentially ravage a beautiful woman with sweat and drool flying. I was looking for a moment of consent, but in the flurry of action it either got lost or wasn't present.
So the first story is about rape.
The second story, recounts pizza delivery boy Lolo's (Tartaglia) love for the unattainable stripper Lola (Carnival mask of a woman). Lola falls to her death while sitting on her balcony smoking a cigarette. Lolo is left alone, crying for the police or any help at all.
This begins to become unsettling. Until you read this in his bio: "He began research into the tragic depth that exists in Commedia dell'Arte..."
The final story is a Puncinella's tale of drunken debauchery, too busy in movement to recount in detail.
Each of these tales ends the same way: the audience, shocked into silence by what it has seen is taking a moment to process. Carlos removes the mask and stands smugly requiring our applause for what has, undoubtedly been a bravura physical performance.
In his opening lecture, Carlos gives lip service to complicity, but little was on display. Manuel was the only character that was able to penetrate and connect with the audience. And he had the shortest amount of stage time, for what it's worth.
Serio-comic, ultimately tragic mask work is great. Commedia, it ain't. Commedia turns the bawdy, the raw, disgusting, nasty humanity into comic moments of complicity. Commedia ends on a laugh. Commedia is shocking by what we dare to laugh at.
It seems as if Carlos is setting himself up to be the next generation's Commedia guru. He's got the chops, but I think his artistic interests may be at odds with that goal. I would love to see him do some masked comedy with the skills he's worked hard to acquire.