Walking the tightrope between truth and fiction
For the Herald
Tebas Land undergoes a creative process meeting the edges of different worlds
The minute Lautaro Perotti greets the audience as he walks into the theatre, it becomes quite clear that Tebas Land is a play unlike most. He introduces himself as an actor and the playwright of what the spectators are about to see, thus outlining very clearly the unique dynamic of the play. He says he wanted to explore the theme of parricide, and that to do so, he got in touch with an actual murderer who had killed his father and who he claims is sitting right then and there in the audience. And just like that, only five minutes into the play, the audience is already referred to as a part of it.
As the story moves forward, it is clear that it is to be divided into two different universes. First, that of Perotti going through the creative and investigative process behind the writing of the play and the second, that of him visiting the murderer at a federal prison and thus getting to know him and his story. These two universes are so clearly interconnected in the creation of the play itself, that it moves from one to the other with almost no preamble, with actor Gerardo Otero discussing the play with Perotti as its actor at times and playing the convict at others.
It would be quite simplistic to state that the Franco-Uruguayan playwright Sergio Blanco – the actual author of the play – meant to explore the theme of parricide in Tebas Land. It would true, of course, and the depth to which it does so is outstanding in that in doesn’t focus on the gruesome murder itself, but rather on what lead to such a crime, thus allowing the audience to empathise with a killer. With references to Oedipus’ story and the literature of Freud and Dostoyevsky — particularly The Brothers Karamazov — the argument becomes richer without ever being anything other than intimate and personal. That is, however many references to parricide can be found in books, this character’s story is his and his alone. And that is why, Perotti tells him, it is so important to get to know him and tell his story to others.
This is where the most interesting side of Tebas Land comes in. It is the detailed retelling of the creative process which makes it far more than simply another story about parricide. By revealing the many ups and downs behind the actual making of a play, Blanco manages to tell a story about truth and artifice at the same time. After all, there is nothing more honest than the many stages a man has to go through when writing a play, and there is nothing like the artifice of theatre and fiction as a whole. The audience becomes an investigator alongside the writer, and can feel how thrilling it is to be telling a story without knowing how it ends. The overall mood is one of suspense, not that of an action-packed play, but of a story where the dice have yet to be cast.
This is, of course, not true. The ending of the play has been written by Blanco a long time ago; deep down, the audience knows this. They know the people on stage are actors, and that everything that’s happening in front of them belongs to the realm of fiction. But by stating some facts which are undoubtedly true – Lautaro Perotti and Gerardo Otero are actually, actors, and Tebas Land is, as they tell us, a play – and by revealing every step behind the writing of it, the audience gets the feeling that they are not being lied to. This allows for them to actually believe that there is a murderer watching the play among them, and that everything we are told about Perotti’s visits to jail and his relationship to the convict could be true as well.
Blanco thus raises the question: what requisites does a story have to consider to be thought of as truthful? What does it mean to be lied to? Is there such a thing as lying or telling the truth when it comes to telling fiction? It is by delving intothese questions that the play becomes a brilliant one. It turns into a story so cleverly crafted that it manages to reflect upon its very nature while at the same time telling the tale it sets out to share. In this sense, Tebas Land is a masterpiece particularly from a written standpoint, although it is still important to point out Corina Fiorillo’s amazing work as a director. In the end, the play seems to want to teach us that the limits between truth and lies are not only diffuse but also unimportant, and that any story that can analyse a theme deeply and portray its characters and mood honestly is truthful enough.
When and where
Fridays at 8.45pm and Sundays at 7.15pm at Timbre 4 (México 3554).
Tickets at $250 through www.alternativateatral.com or at the venue.