by Ed Malin · May 23, 2014
Playwrights on New Plays #78 Ed Malin shares his thoughts on Dhrama at Teatro LATEA
On a stage covered in sand takes place a famous conversation from the ndian epic, "The Mahabharata". “Dhrama” (a pun on “dharma”, meaning “duty”) was conceived by noted Brazilian playwright João Falcão, which just shows how universal the story is.
Note that the character of Krishna (played by Livia de Bueno ) while divine, is traditionally a male, and a ladies man. That’s just one of the delicious risks this production takes.
Arjuna (played by Luca Bianchi, also the director), a great warrior who has become the best bowman ever, finds himself amid two armies preparing for battle. He and his family, the Pandavas, are the good guys. The evil Kauravas have refused all diplomatic solutions, so why does Arjuna fear the fight he has supposedly always wanted? His charioteer, the all-powerful, blue-haired Krishna, talks with Arjuna about the meaning of life.
It’s a good question, which in the original story leads to a few pages of discussion.
But since it’s really complex, I’m glad that this play fleshes out the conflict.
I wasn’t expecting to like the result as much as I did. Should Arjuna fight only because it’s his duty defined by the caste system? Arjuna’s fear, Falcão suggests, has to do with his expectations. Does Arjuna understand the nature of the universe and his place in it? Bianchi brings great humor as well as mystery out of the text.
Falcão’s “Shakesperean-style” (i.e., verse) play was translated and adapted by Juliana Pamplona and Camla Mason into a more conventional dialog style. The set designed by Francesca Altério and Amanda Nina is deceptively simple. To me, it represents infinity. It is a beautiful place for Arjuna and Krishna to practice fighting and to dance. Carlos Fittante, the Director of Movement, is Artistic Director of BALAM, a company which fuses contemporary dance with Balinese theater. Paula Raia’s costumes are alluring and also well-suited to dance. Alex Moore’s lighting as well as Max Peluffo and Vic Castelli’s music help to contrast the individual against the cosmos.