Killer Tangos (Matatangos)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Chile
translated by Prof. Charles Philip Thomas
CAST: 3 men
In July 1978, de la Parra premiered Matatangos. The play was presented in Chile at the Goethe Institute in Santiago under the direction of Oscar Stuardos. It premiered in the U.S. in October, 1987 at the GALA Hispanic Theatre in Washington D.C. and was performed at the same theatre in the 1988-89 season. The play develops around the figure and impact of the famous singer of the twenties and thirties, Carlos Gardel, in Spanish America. The action takes place in the basement of a hotel in Medellín (Colombia) on June 23, 1935 and through a ritual game, reproduces the supposed assassination of the singer, and different vignettes of his personal and professional life. Juan Andrés Piña describes the play as follows: ``Matatangos is, on the other hand, a ritual in itself, a ceremony of demystification of the myth of Carlos Gardel. In the play, in the basement of a hotel in Medellín, at midnight on the 23rd of June, 1935--the night before Gardel's death--the three guitarists for the singer are playing games. After drawing lots, one of them will play Gardel and the others, successively, judges, accusers, friends, prosecutors, lovers, mothers, protectors, promoters and the singer's adoring public.''
Violence permeates many of the scenes acted out by the guitarists, two or three involving gunshots and others with beatings. The work incorporates the playing and singing of many tangos, intricately woven into the action of the play by de la Parra along with references to popular culture, as demonstrated in this scene: ``Two and three dance while they all hum `El Choclo'. One separates from the group. He takes out a gun and aims at One under his clothes. Two sees the assassin and, coldly, as in the James Bond film 'Thunderball', places his partner in front of him in the line of fire. Wounded, Three is placed on the floor by Two.''
The mimetic representation of Gardel's life is interrupted time after time by spontaneous conversations, improvisations, comments on the role that the characters should or should not play according to the script, and many other incidents which affect the rhythm of stage events and even contradict and question the biographic component of the events enacted. This parodic recasting of episodes related to Gardel's personal or professional life invites questioning of the "Homage in One Act" that the play's subtitle announces. The parody and irony involved in each one of these situations evidence that the performance text should not be taken as a nostalgic homage to the highest exponent of porteño popular culture in the twenties and thirties. Although the play may recognize Gardel's contribution to Latin American popular culture, it goes beyond this acknowledgment into the dismantling of the forms of representation and response associated with it.
Marco Antonio de la Parra
Works in Translation