Director José María Muscari brings former stars back to the stage to recount their stories
by Alfredo Cernadas
For the Herald
Showbiz is an ungrateful biz for many. One day you are everybody’s darling, the next you’re are a forgotten has been. This is the subject latest play by José Marí Muscari, the most successful, original, prolific, controversial and versatile of playwrights around, surely because of his inventive originality. For he broaches a wide variety of subjects that range from sex to politics via mythology and even the classics, as in his free versions of Sophocles’ Elektra and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, with Moria Casán, of all people, in the title role of the latter. In fact, Muscari has a keen eye to choose his players, whether famous and unknown, from the present and the past, most of whom die to play a part in one of his productions. He belongs to the off-Corrientes crowd, but he is equally at home in the commercial circuit, just as happy acting on stage as he is off stage, directing.
There is plenty of originality in Muscari’s latest play, which has become one of the most popular in the billboard. One of its main attractions is that the characters are real people, little show biz people, not big stars, although they were very well known, several years ago. Most of them played supporting roles on soap operas or comedies on TV. Gogó Rojo being the exception, for she was a dancer who performed with her more famous sister Ethel in the Maipo, El National and other theatres and TV programs. With these characters’ life stories Muscari created a a vehicle on which this group of has beens rides back to public attention, Indeed, Escoria has reaped a big share of critical kudos and the approval of the audiences that pack the theatre. Granted, it is not a large venue but other theatres with similar capacity surely wish they could draw half the attendance Muscari’s opus does.
The plays’s name is rather cruel: it means dregs or refuse. Yet that is how many if not all the people involved felt after their success waned and, at best, they became fond memories after they were no longer summoned to the set. In some instances the break was incomprehensible as well as hard, as in the case of Osvaldo Guidi who, after winning a Martín Fierro award didn’t work for years and now makes a living giving acting classes, the fate of many out-of-work thespians.
Willy Ruano was a member of Operación Ja Ja, a comedy team and had created a campy, the very popular cool lingo, now hilarious and hopelessly outdated, as fads are wont to be. He also suffered more than his share of dramatic, personal setbacks and now drives a car as a remisero (temporary chauffeur). Still luscious Noemí Alan, whose career was cut short by a photo of her imprudently wearing a military cap at a party, now takes care of her children and dozens of dogs. Liliana Benard (niece of Abel Santa Cruz and cousin of Leonardo Favio) was the short, fat, rather batty, nice friend of the long-suffering star, generally played by Andrea del Boca. Cristina Tejededor was a favourite meany, Julieta Magaña (the daughter of the late film star Angel Magaña and Nuri Montsé) hosted a children’s show, Héctor Fernández Rubio was the kindly doorman ar a school and the less noteworthy Paola Papini (María Aurelia Bissuti’s daughter) and Marikena Riera also vanished from public attention as housewives and office employees.
Now Muscari has brought them back to the limelight, shining a ray of light into otherwise grey lives, returning them to a public a large part of whom had not forgotten them. And,what is more, he does so in the best possible manner for an actor: putting them on a stage, and in a small theatre in which the contact with the audience is practically intimate. Indeed, they greet the members of the public as they arrive, escort them to their seats and offer them a soft drink. The room is decorated with balloons and colorful party trappings, as Guidi lip synchs a song. There are goodies and a birthday cake on a table. The occasion is to give a suprise party to a famous TV producer, Dino Escoria, whom they hope will revive their careers. Like Godot, Escoria never shows up and, in the meantime, each of the hopefuls takes a walk down Memory Lane and relives their real-life story. They even perform a scene from the famous shows they used to be in. It all becomes a moving and/or funny sequence of heart-opening moments, a true boon, a chance of a lifetime to many who had drifted resignedly (or not) into anonymity, a breath of life.