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Perhaps Electra Garrigó, written in 1941 and first performed in 1948 by the Prometeo theater troupe, may be one of his best plays, but was met at the time with so little enthusiasm that the author branded his critics as “unsuccessful artists” and “uneducated Philistines.” In that same year, 1948, he had written Falsa alarma, considered a pioneer of the theater of the absurd, being written two years before Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Prima Donna (1950). Aire frío was written in 1958, published in 1959 and performed for the first time in 1962 with a favorable reception from audiences and critics.
Carlos Celdrán, director of Argos Teatro, has confessed: “My first reaction when I reread Aire frío was not to produce it. I was overwhelmed. Virgilio Piñera’s family biography, the picture of his time (the Republic), the devastating passage of time, the Absurd and the progressive repetition of daily events demanded a monumental scenic construction—excessive for my current purposes.” However, Celdrán chose to accept the challenge foreseeing the impressive simplicity of the dramatic structure and the ability to express the inner world of a Cuban family in any period—including today—harassed by poverty and the anguish of a bitter survival.
In a simple and single setting that represents the modest living room of a home, the family drama (which was in part the author’s own drama) unfolds and is intensified as time marches on. There is no advancement for the Romaguera family. Oscar, the poet son, only wishes to write and publish. He travels to Buenos Aires but fails to settle there and returns home. Angel, the father, is losing his eyesight. This is the symbolic blindness of the person who cannot see but doesn’t “want” to see either. Ana, the mother, endures hardships and humiliations and becomes increasingly ill day by day. Henry, the successful son, lives comfortably with the family that he has founded, visits his parents and siblings out of habit, but only thinks of himself. Luis, who lives in New York, has gone deaf. Luz Marina, the protagonist, the only daughter and the family’s sole breadwinner, lives in despair. Her profound anguish envisions no future and harbors the grisly emptiness of impotence. And the heat—an omnipresent character in the play and in the stage production—overwhelms, exhausts, suffocates, kills…
Celdrán has assured that going over these issues in the current context was for him a “cathartic exorcism” because this “cascade to the abyss” has allowed him to feel the sting of pain in the style of Virgilio of making theater under strong, lucid sarcasm, and he has emphasized the substance of the great Cuban playwright, being able to face the harshest reality with absurdity, which is so common, that it may go unnoticed.
Founded in 1996, the Argos Teatro Company successfully revisited Piñera’s play supported by the remarkable performance of the young actress Yuliet Cruz in the role of Luz Marina—organic, intense, providing contemporariness to her character, evident in her manners, the way she moves and the way she speaks. Cruz hides her exotic beauty and gives a laudable representation. Meanwhile, veteran Francisco García proves the validity of the National Theater Award which he was granted in 2012 in his portrayal of the father, who goes convincingly from euphoria to sadness, from cynicism to tenderness, from haughtiness to helplessness. Octuber 2014 This article formed part of the August 2014 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.
What’s On Havana What’s On La Habana What’s On La Havane Octuber, 2014
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