I admit my first play here was a bit of an odd choice. But I wanted to let myself in gently, and this was a play whose original version (for reasons it doesn't bear going into) I'd just happened to read and had right there on the Kindle. I felt like the rituals around seeing a big commercial play might be easier to navigate than the ones around a little interesting off-off- number. And finally, this production had been directed by Daniel Veronese, a guy I know of as a playwright (there's a lot of crossover like that here)-- I read and saw his Women Dreamt Horses in NYC (in Jean Graham-Jones' terrific translation.)
So this was interesting: Women Dreamt Horses is as odd and challenging as the title would indicate, and this play Veronese directed for the commercial theatre is a pretty straightforward little number. I was curious to see what experiments he might have performed on it in that setting.
So off I went to see Los Elegidos, by Teresa Rebeck. (Seminar, in English). To put it mildly I was startled. I'd say that Seminar in VO aims to be a comedy of ideas, an exploration of the brutalities-- emotional, political, psychosexual, etc-- of the artist's life. Funny but tough and heartfelt. In BsAs, it was an insanely frothy sex farce. Like, Three's Company level. The changes weren't only tonal, either: I reread the script in English that afternoon, and was naïvely expecting to track it almost line for line. Naïvely not only because from the first second they talked ten miles a minute on top of each other, but also, I came to realize, because whole aspects of the story had been rewritten!
Fascinating. Is this common practice? The producers are this powerhouse commercial production gay couple who do their own translations (to be fair, it's credited as a versión). Do the kinds of playwrights whose work gets translated around the world accept that translators will also know how to transform the play into the kind of play their audiences like to see?
(Not Yasmina Reza anyway: I directed God of Carnage with the original script at hand for reference, and Hampton stuck very close to it.)
As a sex farce, I have to say the show was perfectly well-executed, the acting was very strong in that genre, and several story points were indisputably improved by the rewrites.
But what about this other mystery: how did the guy who wrote Mujeres Soñaron Caballos generate this goofy bit of froth? The "why" is easy-- everybody has bills to pay, and I'm sure experimental theatre doesn't pay much better here than anywhere else. But… how?
Finally I came up with an idea. At the end of the day, one could make the argument that even in English Seminar is basically a sex farce masquerading as a comedy of ideas. Maybe this was actually a sneaky subversion from Veronese-- maybe the rewrites were his! His prickly experimental self refused to pretend this play is deep and drove it to the opposite extreme.
I do like this theory. But really for its aesthetic value rather than any possibility that it might hold truth value.