ATACAMA: READY and NOT?

SATURDAY, APRIL 28 @ 8:00 PM
DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL
Theater 80 St. Marks

REVIEW BY MICHAEL D’ANTONI

30741211_10214303936905123_6576781801438576640_nATACAMA BY AUGUSTO FEDERICO AMADOR

ATACAMA, a desert plateau in the South American Country of Chile. The area lies between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Geologists have labeled it the driest desert on earth as it receives the least amount of precipitation annually.
The play “ATACAMA”  takes place thirty years after the coup d’etat and subsequent genocide waged by the evil Chilean Military Dictator General Augusto Pinochet on his own people. Between the years of 1973 and 1990, Pinochet ruled Chile with an iron fist, for he used the army to maintain order which led to scores of death and human rights violations while corruption plagued his dictatorial reign. In the wake of these atrocities the play tells of two strangers, a mother and father,who search the horrible terrain of the Atacama Desert for missing loves one’s, only to unearth harsher and darker truths that are awaiting them.
Minimalism (with regards to sets and props alike) in the theater always affords the actors the unique opportunity to a shine without overt and ostentatious distractions. Especially when the playwright has a poignant story or message to convey.
Two blankets and two chairs is about minimalist as one can get!
I was prepared for pure talent and acting conveyance of a rich story in one of the most critical moments in the history of South America.
But, what I got was something entirely different.
For this was not a play it was a stage reading of what may have been an unfinished script! The actors those very scripts in their hands for no less than the entire performance, They clung to their written lines as if they were reading them for the very first time!
As a member of the audience I could not separate myself from the historical richness that was abound in the history before us but received a simple storybook of events whereby two actors read from their scripts for the entire show with little feeling, candor or richness.
Moreover, the playwright made an attempt to lay the story out nicely. For, the words were apparently there! The feeling of pain and sorrow were apparently there!  The rather inventive encounter of two strangers meeting while trying to find the remains of their missing children was also very apparent, as well as, the depth of feeling, frustration and heartache for those who experienced Pinochet’s heinous crimes was there on the verge of being told! But alas never happened.
Well versed and vocal in dialogue was the description of the events leading up to how both characters got to where they were. But, unfortunately all was lost to the very simple, yet monumental fact that the actors could not separate themselves from the script held tightly in their individual hands!  A total and unfortunate distraction as I left feeling that I was cheated by the fact that the actors did not even take the necessary time to learn their lines with no appreciation for their respective audience as I also left feeling even more cheated out of a greater story that was waiting to be told and unfortunately never was.

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