MEMORIA Y... PASIÓN!
May 27, 2005–Thursday June 2, 2005
Continente Viril ("Virile
Continente") Being told about something and experiencing it are two
very different things. Thus, people who understand Argentina's
culture and its history of the past 40 years may well appreciate
Teatro de la Luna's staging of Alejandro Acobino's Continente Viril
("Virile Continent") more than others would. As for the rest of us--well,
we have an intriguing polar setting and energetic staging to divert
us, though it's hardly diverting enough for a full two hours. The
scene: a military base in Antarctica, a sort of geographical booby-prize-pie
being rapidly carved up by the countries who occupy it. Two military
men and one timid civilian clerk are more or less trapped there;
their only connections to the rest of the world are via a clunky
radio set, and the only other humans they see are the residents of
other bases, with whom they maintain a desperate barter system for
such essentials as record albums and booze. Into this No Exit—like
setting--and into Mariano Lucioni's detailed but economical set,
with its aging bureaucratic furniture and its surprisingly large
first-aid cabinet--comes a young scientist studying a strange local
phenomenon: Groups of local penguins are committing suicide.
Director Mario Marcel adroitly presents the feverish intensity with
which the base's residents anticipate their new bunkmate--and their
disappointment with his standoffish ways. Unfortunately, it takes
until Act 2 for this disappointment to turn to something more
sinister--and what has been a MASH-like farce to erupt into sadism
and violence. (PMW) Gunston Arts Center Theater II, 2700 S. Lang St.,
Bob Anthony, Celia Sharpe, & Nancy
McCord - Freelance Arts Critics
Arts, May 25, 2005
The Teatro de la Luna has a well developed script with Alejandro
Acobino's "Continente Viril" and it is powerfully acted by four
excellent performers. It is really a bitter and abusive satire of
military Argentineans when confronted by a zoological scientist who
is out to discover why a group of penguins are committing mass
suicide when the same type of penguins on the Chilean side of the
border live happily in their group arrangement. Angel Torres is the
nasty colonel who rails against the political overthrow of
Argentina's army, and he scolds the lackey soldier, the civil clerk
and the scientist who are all stationed in an antarctica seabase. He
awaits his military retirement in six months and his only chore in
such present isolation is as a "chicken s_ _ _" overlord. Peter
Pereyra is the slavish soldier and Carlos Parra is the repressed
civil servant and both are clever enough to keep the colonel soused
to avoid his scolding. Willie Padin is the effective but reclusive
scientist who finally discovers the cause of the penguin suicides
but is tortured so as not to disclose his findings until the colonel
retires. All sequences are strongly acted by all four and Mr.
Pereyra and Carlos Parra provide wonderful comic relief particularly
when they do their deceptive radio broadcasts. Mario Marcel directs
with fine comic and serious finesse as called for. Ayun Fedorcha
handles the surrealistic lighting that provides symbolic overtones
to the characters and the setting. Mariano Lucioni provides an
appropriately cluttered setting to confirm a "macho" carelessness.
This is a highly recommended play in which the script and the actors
are all first rate. Teatro de la Luna is now using surtitles in
English which allows one to fully appreciate the acting without
earphone translation interference. (To 6/18)
“Arlington Weekly News” CHANNEL 69
Teatro de la Luna – “Continente Viril” (Virile Continent)
Arlington’s own Teatro de la Luna, closes out its successful 14th
season with the comedy, “Continente Viril” or “Virile Continent” by
Argentinean Alejandro Acobino in its world premiere at Gunston. Set
on an Argentinean military base located on the Antarctic continent,
there are four male actors: a young scientist, a civilian clerk, and
a military colonel and sergeant. This mini-bureaucracy is headed by
Col. Melendez, who is looking forward to retirement in 18 months and
wants nothing to get in the way. Sergeant Benitez, an understanding
paper-pusher, understands the need to keep the status quo – as does
the civilian. Unfortunately, the scientist has been investigating
the environment on the Antarctic and has noted that penguins are
dying. While watching this very funny, all too real story – or as
Teatro calls the humor… “surrealistic grotesque satire” – one
realizes the basic instinct of one’s nature is not to rock the boat.
It doesn’t matter if this is a tale from Argentina or China,
“Continente Viril” is an everyman’s comedy – military or not.
Artistic director Mario Marcel once again lends his deft touch to an
outrageous theme and makes it plausible, with many thanks to the
talented actors, as I’m sure Marcel would agree. The actors are
Angel Torres as the Colonel, Peter Pereyra as the sergeant, Willie
Padin, the scientist and Carlos Parra, the clerk. The shows at
Teatro de la Luna are more enjoyable than ever with the English
translations now above the set, as opposed to using earphones. See
this fun piece at Gunston through June 18 at 2700 S. Lang St. in
Arlington. Call 703-548-3092 for information or check Teatro’s
website at www.teatrodelaluna.org
of June 2-9, 2005 © 2005 Suburban Washington Newspapers Inc.
Argentinean Satire Makes for Good
A review of Teatro de la Luna's
production of "Continente Viril" ["Virile Continent"]. by MATT
Few subjects are as ripe for parody as are the mindless
officiousness of military life and the arrogant self-righteousness
of environmentalists and their scientist cohorts. When the two
worlds collide, whoa nelly, look out.
Argentinean playwright Alejandro Acobino puts the conflict in
perspective in “Continente Viril” (“Virile Continent”), being
performed by Teatro de la Luna at Gunston Arts Center. In a brisk
two-hour performance directed by Mario Marcel, the company manages
to simultaneously go for laughs and plumb for deeper meaning in the
work. The result is a satisfying evening of theater.
The plot goes something like this: For national pride’s sake,
Argentina is hanging onto its sliver of Antarctica, and although the
country’s military junta was overthrown in the 1980s, a small
contingent (read: “two soldiers”) of Argentina’s army have been
dispatched to an Antarctic base to ensure that other countries do
not encroach on its claims.
They are there in the wasteland with a single civil servant assigned
to do the paperwork, and then are joined by a scientist, dispatched
to uncover why penguins – and, ironically, only penguins in the
Argentina sector – are committing mass suicide.
The two acts are played out in a style that Teatro de la Luna is
describing as “surrealistic grotesque satire,” which sounds like a
title coined by an overtired committee. In truth, it simply
describes some of the character traits and the underlying political
subversiveness of the script – for although the playwright was just
a boy when the military ran Argentina, the plot takes wide aim at
the overall incompetence of military rule, if only in a small shack
in the Antarctic.
Angel Torres is the autocratic, heavy-drinking, Germany-worshiping
army colonel whose hopes for retirement seem to be quashed at every
turn. There’s something magically maniacal – almost “Apocalypse Now”-like
– in his performance.
Peter Pereyra has a googly-eyed charm as the sergeant who puts up
with the colonel’s outbursts. And Willie Padín is quite good as the
Argentine penguinologist with a Polish surname, sent to find the
reason behind the suicides.
But the evening clearly belongs to Carlos Parra as Perrupato, the
government clerk bent on following the rules in spite of their
silliness. He has a standout quality about him.
Marcel’s direction is deft; he shares an Argentinean heritage with
the playwright The set (Mariano Lucioni), costumes (Nucky Walder)
and lighting (Ayun Fedorcha) are all above par.
The show is in Spanish; for the first time, Teatro de la Luna has
abandoned simultaneous English translation service, instead opting
to use English surtitles flashed above the stage. They were fine; if
anything, they were a second in front of the actual dialogue, giving
those reading along first crack at the jokes.
It’s an energized evening of theater, a solid outing for those who
know the history being parodied, and for those who are just along
for the ride.
Given some of the language and themes, Teatro de la Luna suggests
the play is appropriate for ages 15 and older.
“Continente Viril” (“Virile Continent”) continues through June 18 at
Gunston Arts Center Theatre II, 2700 South Lang St. in Arlington.
Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and
8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$25.
For information, call (703) 548-3092 or see the Web site at
Washington Post by Michael Toscano
'Continente Viril' Turns Satiric
Gaze on Argentine Junta
Special to The Washington
Thursday, June 2, 2005; Page VA06
Why are penguins in
Antarctica committing mass suicide? To be more precise, why are
penguins in an Argentine sector of Antarctica the only ones killing
themselves? The question arises, as you might expect, in satire.
In a society where justice has sometimes been ephemeral, people
learn to use symbolism and stereotypes to tell a story, a discipline
embraced by Argentinean playwright Alejandro Acobino in "Continente
Viril," the season finale for Teatro de la Luna, Arlington's Spanish-language
Acobino was just a child during the violent rule of the military
junta that seized power in Argentina in 1976 and went on a rampage
against the citizenry. The military lost control of the country in
1983, but not before thousands of people vanished without a trace.
But in this outpost in an Argentine sector of Antarctica, the "virile
continent," the junta is a fond memory for some, and the tools of
its trade are still close at hand some time after the return to
civilian rule. There is still a war going on, but now it is being
waged against nature, the once pristine continent being despoiled by
humans. Meanwhile, some of the humans exiled to this melting piece
of real estate seem more concerned with clinging to some crumbling
sense of order than allowing science to fulfill its mission, and a
little microcosm of the previous military/political society is
It sounds deadly serious, but Acobino has written a spoof, scathing
to those who understand the symbolism and an enjoyable, broadly
played comedy with occasionally dark undertones for everyone else. A
young scientist named Sosnowsky (Willie Padin) is sent to ascertain
why penguins are opting for death near a tiny military encampment
that serves primarily as a radio station. The station is a potent
symbol of power in a totalitarian state, even if few can hear its
We first meet Sosnowsky as he records his observations on the deck
of the ship taking him to the installation, the quirky nature of the
story immediately evident as he detaches the ship's railing and
carries it with him to the base. Does that mean this scientist
carries his own reality with him wherever he goes, even as he
ventures into the surreal world Acobino has cooked up for him? Uh,
sure. Why not? After all, director Mario Marcel describes his
approach to the play as "surrealistic grotesque satire." And that
sure sounds like a detached railing.
The scientist is greeted by two eccentric military officers and a
fussy civil servant with delusions of grandeur. Marcel employs
distinctly different acting methodologies with his cast, hoping the
mix of styles adds up to a satisfying melange. Somehow it does.
Soldiers Benitez (Peter Pereyra) and Melendez (Angel Torres) are
caricatures, rendered in the so-called grotesque discipline of the
commedia dell'arte tradition, with exaggerated motion and broad
acting. Each soldier hews to military procedure at the expense of
common sense. Civil servant Perrupato (Carlos Parra) dances around
logic to avoid responsibility, his personal reality a surreal blur.
The scientist attempts to impose rational discipline on the
intellectual chaos he finds, making him the perfect vessel of
satirical comment as Padin plays it fairly matter-of-factly.
The actors are energetic, the pacing is rapid and the laughs are
many. There are even a few chills, though not of the Arctic variety.
But, unfortunately, Marcel has opted to forgo simultaneous English
translation via headsets, which worked marvelously, replacing it
with surtitles flashed on an overhead screen. That's a huge mistake.
Anything taking audience eyes off actors diminishes their
effectiveness, and it's a tiring nuisance to non-Spanish speakers in
attendance. Let's hope this experiment will be judged a failure and
the headsets returned when Teatro de la Luna begins its new season
"Continente Viril," performed by Teatro de la Luna, continues
through June 18 at Gunston Arts Center's Theater Two, 2700 S. Lang
St., Arlington. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and
Saturdays, with matinees at 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
Washington Post by
Teatro's 'Continente Viril':
Comedy Lost in Translation
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, June 2, 2005; Page C04
The setup of "Continente Viril" sounds
like the beginning of a joke: A scientist, a clerk and two soldiers
are living on an Argentine military base in the Antarctic. The
scientist is visiting to conduct a study of penguins on the base,
prompted after a number of them apparently committed suicide.
"Did you notice anything strange about them?" he asks one of his
hosts. "Yes," the soldier responds. "They suicided!"
Most of Teatro de la Luna's "Continente Viril" ("Virile Continent")
is as breezy as that punch line, though when the scientist's closing
monologue speaks of a "rite of passage," you may feel as if you've
missed something. Indeed, in the playbill, director (and Teatro co-founder)
Mario Marcel refers cryptically to a historical moment captured in
Alejandro Acobino's comedy, as well as "happenings that, ghostlike,
prowl through various generations of Argentines even today." With no
specifics about what those happenings might be -- not even a time
period is specified -- theatergoers not intimately familiar with
Latin American history will likely view "Continente Viril" as
nothing more than a slight story about four men and some kamikaze
Even the acting style is accorded weight that doesn't seem to be
earned: Marcel refers to his approach as "surrealistic grotesque
satire," though audiences may just call it slapstick. Teatro's cast
members throw a lot of energy into their odd characters, especially
Carlos Parra as the base's slightly neurotic but relentlessly cheery
administrator, Perrupato, and Angel Torres as Col. Melendez, a never-satisfied
browbeater who expresses frustration by furiously slapping at his
own head. Willie Padin and Teatro regular Peter Pereyra play the
more subdued scientist, Sosnowsky, and underling Sgt. Benitez,
respectively, and although neither character is overtly comic, each
gets his share of one-liners as well.
Despite its occasional funny moments, the two-act "Continente Viril"
tends to drag, the victim of a weak narrative. Not much happens in
nearly two hours: Sosnowsky talks into his tape recorder about his
observations, the other guys check out his credentials and ask
questions about his career, and quite often they simply get drunk.
Act 2 moves a little more briskly, with an unsuccessful card game
that shows off the cast's timing and an unexpected dramatic turn in
which Sosnowsky, having come up with a theory about the penguins'
behavior, now has to fear for his own life.
All of the action takes place on Marcel's divided set, dominated by
the base's office/radio station with one corner of the stage, helped
by slides projected on a background screen, serving as the great
As with all of Teatro's productions, "Continente Viril" is presented
in Spanish, though the company's method of interpretation for
English speakers has changed: Instead of the traditional
simultaneous interpretation via headset, this staging uses surtitles.
The dialogue, translated by Gae Schmitt, is clear and well timed;
one drawback is the placement of the surtitle screen in the front of
the stage, which makes it more difficult to read and keep one's eyes
on what's going on than if the projection were set toward the back.
The bigger problem, however, is the failure of Acobino's script to
illuminate any of the deeper meaning his story seems intended to
impart. At one point Sosnowsky admits, "Sometimes science doesn't
have the answers to all enigmas." Neither do critics.
Continente Viril , by Alejandro Acobino, translated by Gae Schmitt.
Directed by Mario Marcel. Set, Mario Marcel; lighting, Ayun Fedorcha;
sound, Mario Marcel; costumes, Nucky Walder. Approximately two hours.
Through June 18 at Gunston Arts Center, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington.