International Hispanic Theatre Festival

Mexican troupe explores the complexity of fighting terrorism

 

If you go

What: XXVIII International Hispanic Theatre Festival

When: Through July 28

Cost: $30 ($25 seniors, students, theatergoers with disabilities); 20 percent discount on tickets to three or more shows

Info: 304-445-8877, www.teatroavante.com; 305-949-6722, www.arshtcenter.org; 305-237-3262, www.prometeotheatre.com

WHERE

Carnival Studio Theater in the Ziff Ballet Opera House, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

Teatro Prometeo and Auditorium, Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami

Onstage Black Box Theatre, Miami Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami

Miami Dade College’s Koubek Center, 2705 SW Third St., Miami

Miami Dade College’s InterAmerican Campus, 627 SW 27th Ave., Miami

Key Biscayne Community Center, 10 Village Green Way, Key Biscayne

THE SHOWS

‘Salmo 91’ (‘Psalm 91’) by Ateliê Voador Companhia de Teatro of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil; 5 p.m. Sunday; Carnival (Spanish; contains nudity and strong language)

‘Coming Home’ by Jaume Vilaseca Trio of Barcelona, Spain; 5 p.m. Sunday; On Stage Black Box (jazz concert)

International Children’s Day (includes 5:45 performance of ‘Güepajé’ by Asociación Cultural Hilos Mágicos of Bogota, Colombia), 2-7 p.m. Sunday, Miami Dade InterAmerican Campus (Spanish)

‘Marica’ (‘Fag’) by El Vasco Producciones of Buenos Aires, Argentina; 8:30 p.m. July 26-27, Teatro Prometeo (Spanish)

‘Otelo’ (‘Othello’) by Compañía de Teatro Viajeinmóvil of Santiago, Chile; 8:30 p.m. July 26-27, Koubek Center (Spanish)

‘Al pie del Támesis’ (‘On the Banks of the Thames’) by Teatro Avante of Miami; 8:30 p.m. July 24-26, Carnival (Spanish with English supertitles)

‘Siglo de oro, siglo de ahora’ (‘Golden Age, Our Age’) by Ron Lalá Teatro of Madrid, Spain; 8:30 p.m. July 27, 5 p.m. July 28; Carnival (Spanish)

SPECIAL EVENTS

‘Journey to the Center of the Stage,’ an exhibition of costumes and sets; 7-11 p.m. July 26-27; Koubek Center (free)

‘Peru at the Festival,’ an exhibition of photos by Asela Torres; through July 28; Carnival lobby

‘Theatrum Nuntia,’ works of artist José Torres Böhl; 6-8 p.m. July 26-27; Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus Center Gallery (free)


Special to the Miami Herald

In Juan Mayorga’s Spanish language play La paz perpetua ( Eternal Peace), outstanding actors from the National Theater Company of Mexico portray a trio of dogs who compete for the position of an elite sniffer dog at an anti-terrorism agency.

The stage is barren except for three folding chairs, each of which represents a dog’s territory. The director, Mariana Giménez, wisely chooses to use a small section of the Carnival Studio Theater’s stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center. The close quarters intensify the sense of cutthroat competition between the dogs. Occasionally, actor Andres Weiss, the only human character in the play, enters the scene to execute a command or lead one of the dogs away on a leash. Weiss is always accompanied by Casius (Oscar Narvaez). Leaning on a crutch and wearing an eyepatch, Casius, a Labrador retriever, is a veteran sniffer charged with discerning the other dogs’ strengths and weaknesses.

La paz perpetua’s conceit is that men portray dogs that are, in turn, symbols of humanity. This could easily become gimmicky or even farcical if the actors took their roles too literally. The actors imbue a sense of “dogness.” They growl, sniff and drool. They lift their hind legs to mark their territory and snarl when one of their fellow canines trespasses. However, they avoid becoming caricatures by developing unique personalities.

Dressed in a black biker’s jacket, Enrique Arreol’s Odín is a surly, self-centered Rottweiler mix. He is the play’s cynic. Odín finds faults in others and tries to turn his enemies against one another in order to win.

Israel Islas plays the ferocious, alpha dog John-John, an artificially engineered mix of Doberman, boxer and pit bull who is all brawn and no brains. He has the power to destroy, but no common sense.

Marco García plays Emmanuel, a German Shepherd whose name is a reference to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. The play also takes its name from Kant’s notion of perpetual peace. García has the soulful brown eyes and contemplative nature of a philosopher, and as Casius tests the dogs to see how far they would go to fight terrorism, Emmanuel emerges as the play’s conscience.

Ultimately La paz perpetua is about human beings and what we are capable of. In the final surprise test, the three dogs are told there is a terrorism suspect at the end of the hall. They are asked if they would be willing to destroy the suspect based on the possibility of his guilt. This is the play’s relevant question: To what extent are abuses of power acceptable in the name of the defense of democracy? The play ends on an appropriately disquieting note, considering the complexity of its theme.

Mayorga’s dialogues are rich with meaty intellectual barbs; however, the text is at times verbose, which slows down the play’s momentum. Nevertheless, La paz perpetua is a fascinating look at the contemporary implications of the global war on terror.

Read more Performing Arts stories from the Miami Herald

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