María Lía Macchi has translated for Poemas del Río Wang the article of Ruth Mehl on the play María Elena by the group La Galera Encantada. The original Spanish version of the article can be read here, in the July 27, 2008 Sunday edition of La Nación.

It’s undeniable that any proposal that includes songs by M.E.W. tends to arouse the complicity of its audience, at least, that of the adults in it.

And, logically, this also implies a risk. What else can a new show on the subject say, beyond connecting us with the emotion of once more feeling the roguishness, the playfulness, the elegant mischievousness of a material which in its time was innovative and daring, breaking with the logic and order that poetry was supposed to have, and now continues to have an enormous presence in our memories, and has also preserved its contemporariness and absolute inimitability?

Precisely, Hector Presa’s adroitness resides in that he does not have the pretension of adding anything: he just asks questions and plays. In a certain manner, the playwrite celebrates with intense joy the heritage of liberty that he received from these songs and poems, and shares a new fantasy with other generations than his own. What sort of person is this writer? How was it that all this occurred to her? What angel visited her? What can we inherit from her? How and where did she run into the sprite of nonsense?

The fable that is presented on the stage acts as a very simple trigger: five youngsters want to nose around in the famous María Elena Walsh’s home to find out if they can discover what she’s like. Once inside they run into many conundrums; the most important of which is the author herself , who welcomes them and assigns them the task of getting her material in order. While they try to do this, she seems to be having a lot of fun, knowing that the task is impossible and promoting nonsensical situations. Finally they all play together at many games which are induced by the texts that they find.

Maybe the words which more aptly serve to qualify the play as a whole are “harmony” and “balance”. A perfect equilibrium balanced on nonsense, an unfailing rhythm, which sometimes can become vertiginous and take actors and audience to a climax that dissolves in a joke, a witticism, a new prank; sustained at all times by a net woven by music and songs.

Every aspect of this very well coordinated performance is excellent and worthy of mention: a scenery that is at one time simple and fascinating, full of surprises, containing all those objects which are so important in the songs. A wardrobe that harmonizes with the game but is not strident; the music, an elaboration very carefully planned so as to present the songs in their true rhythms, with no additions, to then take them to a kind of eclosion with a medley that excites an immediate and enthusiastic response from the audience.

As regards the choreography, its astounding that five persons on this ample stage can make drawings with their bodies and achieve at all times a perfect integration with the rest of the details. With no need for special effects, the dances playfully draw amusing poems.

The acting is impeccable, and again the balance among the characters can be appreciated here, a precise elaboration of the performers. Lili Lastra must have a mention all to herself for her so lovable characterization of that lady writer who puts on a hat to welcome visitors, and has fun teaching young people the joy of nonsense, a character that arises from María Elena Walsh’s material and reflects the way the author sees her sprite.

The play lasts seventy minutes and for the smallest ones it might be a little long, especially, one must admit, because most of the added value to this piece resides in recognizing the songs. Anyway, the small story amuses amiably. It might be a good idea to get the children to listen to the songs at home before going to find them in the show.

And the fact that the adults go to the theatre, feel young again, recover the joy of living and share it with the children, and that the older children remember, before they begin to forget, makes this an opportunity that must not be lost. Advise to the grown ups: carry a handkerchief.

Ruth Mehl