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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: El Desarollo de la civiliacion venidera (FTA, 2011)

(Photo credit: Sergio Chiossone)

Beg, steal and bribe whoever you need to. Just go see this show.
joel fishbane

Not even a volcano can keep a good theatre company down. After having their first performance delayed due to the recent volcanic eruption in Chile, the artists behind El Desarrollo de la civiliacion venidera (The Development of the Coming Civilization) finally made their appearance at the FTA Thursday night – and God, was it worth the wait. A stark and bare bones update / adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the ensemble directed by Daniel Veronese has produced the sort of theatre you should ignore the Fringe to see.

It’s easy for Canadians to forget that women do not fare as well in other cultures as they do here...

Set in modern day South America, Veronese and company have stripped down Ibsen’s drama to its bare essentials, providing the entire narrative (more or less) in a 90 minute, uncluttered production that literally only has two lighting cues. In doing so, the narrative is forced through one or two questionable hoops (a couple literally go to a party and come back in under ten minutes) but these are minor quibbles. The lack of technical distractions puts the focus solely on the actors and the script, both of which grab our attention from lighting cue #1 (Lights Up) to lighting cue #2 (Lights Down). 

The story is lifted directly from Ibsen – Nora (a wrenching Ana Garibaldi) is being blackmailed by Krogstad (Marcello Subiotto), which threatens her marriage to Jorge (Carlos Portaluppi). While the central themes of Ibsen’s work remain present, M. Veronese has injected another element into the mix: machismo, of the sort so prevalent in Latin American culture. In doing so, he turns the domestic drama into a terrifying comment on the macho heritage of Latin society.

(Photo credit: Sergio Chiossone)
It’s easy for Canadians to forget that women do not fare as well in other cultures as they do here (and they don’t always fare so well here, but that’s another story). At the performance I attended, the audience laughed in disbelief at Jorge’s blatant macho behaviour, such as dismissing women from the room so he could scold his wife or magnanimously “forgiving” Nora after Krogstad’s blackmail scheme falls apart. But there was nothing satirical in Carlos Portaluppi’s characterization of Jorge: if anything, he produced a stark and frightening portrayal of a man who will do anything to maintain control over his tiny domain.

In doing this, Veronese and company have both thrown the veil off of a shadowy part of Latin American culture while giving us a dire warning of what becomes of us once our comfortable illusions are stripped away. Not all developments are good, after all, and if anything El Desarollo… shows us the degradation of our civilized behaviour once things like honor and pride are dangled over the mouths of wolves.

Yes, yes, the Fringe has started, but you’ve got 10 days to see those plays and only two more chances to see El Desarollo. Beg, steal and bribe whoever you need to. Just go see this show. 

El Desarollo de la civiliacion venidera plays on June 10 at 7 PM and, thanks to that pesky volcano, can also be seen June 11 at 2 PM. For tickets visit

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