A woman who escaped death as a child spends her life seeking revenge for the horrific murders of her father and brother. She tracks and eliminates one killer, then a second. But when she finally comes face to face with the third man — the man who spared the life of a terrified little girl hidden by her frightened father — something shifts. Motivation and mercy reenter the equation. And a story of violence and vengeance evolves into a lesson in psychological survival.
The description of Sin sangre (Without Blood) sounds like a plot straight out of a film noir classic. But Sin sangre, which will play Miami Beach’s Colony Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday as part of the MDC Live Arts series, isn’t just film or theater. Performed in Spanish with English supertitles, it’s an innovative hybrid marrying both art forms.
Teatro Cinema, a company based in the Chilean capital of Santiago, has been working since 2006 to develop shows that put live actors into filmed environments. The complex technique allows for breathtaking shifts, instantaneous time travel and more, effects that are far more difficult to achieve in traditional theater.
With the increasing use of projections in theater design, South Florida audiences have recently marveled at Jean Valjean’s harrowing journey through the Paris sewers in Les Mis érables and the cascading rivers of molten steel in Flashdance the Musical, both achieved via projections. But what Teatro Cinema does is different — and in plenty of ways, much trickier.
“We started out asking how we could achieve the things that movies can do, instead of saying, ‘That’s impossible,’ ” Dauno Tótoro, who wrote the script for Sin sangre, says in a call from Santiago. “We were tired of being obstructed by four walls. But it took a very long time to figure out how to make people seem to disappear or appear like magic.”
The company tried projecting film behind the actors, then tried putting the images on a screen in front of them, but the front-only technique didn’t work either.
“That created a distance between the actors and the audience. It was foggy,” Tótoro says.
Teatro Cinema found its solution in putting screens behind and in front of the actors, with director-actor-composer Juan Carlos Zagal carefully choreographing the movement so that the interaction with the filmed images was seamless, precise and clear.
“We discovered we were dealing with a whole new language,” Tótoro says, adding that the human element of each performance is predominant. “It’s very important that it’s all performed and ‘edited’ live. The way that the music, lighting, acting, film and English supertitles work together is done in sequence.”
Teatro Cinema’s Sin sangre is based on a novella by Alessandro Baricco. Tótoro says a company member found a copy left behind in a hotel room when the troupe was touring in France, and though Barrico’s story was set in a fictitious world, it resonated with the Chilean theater artists.
“There is a sense of revenge in Chile. People ask how can you move ahead and stop the flow of blood? The only way is to become resilient,” he says.
Laura María Pizarro plays Nina, the woman bent on revenge, in Sin sangre. Via email, she describes her character as a lonely victim who summons the energy to confront those who left her suspended in her own life. And Pizarro explains what it’s like to work in the hybrid world of Teatro Cinema.
“Film is definitely not as important as it sounds or seems. We fuse both languages, so one is not above the other. ... Our plays make us, the actor, become involved in a large choreography, where you must be conscious of every split second. Other than the virtual world, we have to deal with scene mechanics, music, text, movement. From my point of view, the film component is just one more tool that interacts with the other tools that make up the play,” she says.
Audiences react to the experience in a variety of ways. Some tell Pizarro they’ve never seen anything like what Teatro Cinema does. Others call it “pure magic.” Still others wonder if the actors are really present onstage. They are.
Kathryn Garcia, executive director of MDC Live Arts, became aware of Teatro Cinema through conversations with fellow arts administrators in the United States and Latin America. She hasn’t seen Sin sangre live, but she has watched it on video and found it fascinating.
“It was completely gripping; they had me start to finish,” she says. “It’s highly stylized and technically complex, but that’s all in service of the story. It’s an extremely dramatic piece about violence, but it also has other-worldly, ethereal qualities.”
Tótoro thinks that Sin sangre may have a particular meaning and artistic impact on some of those who come to see it in South Florida.
“In Miami, immigration involves many people who have come to escape physical or economic violence,” he says. “Some of them may get [insight into] how to deal with rage and get rid of it.”