Free or Slaves? / 14ymedio, Lynn Cruz

Scene from 'The Emigrants' by Slawomir Mrozek, directed by Sahily Moreda. (14ymedio)
Scene from ‘The Emigrants’ by Slawomir Mrozek, directed by Sahily Moreda. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lynn Cruz, Havana, 30 August 2015 — The play The Emigrants (1975), by the Polish playwright Slawomir Mrozek has been staged by Sahily Moreado and his company Teatro del Cuartel at Sala Teatro El Sotano in Havana. This story of tearing apart, uprooting and exile will present the final shows of its revival over the weekend.

One of the characters fled for political reasons, while the other to escape misery. The first believes in the value of being able to think and speak freely, while the latter wants to make money to return to his family. Two visions of the world coexist in a basement, but what isn’t specified is in which country or city.

Driven by survival, each character shows his most primitive side and at the moments when the atmosphere becomes more sordid than dreary, the theater piece evokes the work Two Lost in the Filthy Night (1966) by the Brazilian Linio Marcos.

Because The Emigrants is presented in a Cuban scenario, for the audience the association is immediate: Two Cuban immigrants in a first world country. Thus, the two realities end up merged, and even more so due to the historic similarities that unite us with Poland.

The absence of scene design, however, weakens the vision. For example, the use of Caribbean objects and furniture found in any Cuban house or kitchen. Another notable aspect were the sudden and almost mechanical lighting transitions, which at many points are divorced from the rhythm of the staging.

However, the minimalism, as well as the use of space and each of the elements, display no lack of rigor. Moreda, in addition to being characterized by his exhaustive selection of texts, fends intelligently for himself, countering the material deficiencies with the quality of his performers, who achieve particularly emotional moments.

It is not difficult for the spectators to enter in the atmosphere of the basement where the story narrated by the play takes place. A match between the real space and the theatrical space, with the odor of dampness and the dust in the room, this time, favors the fiction.

The characters are from different backgrounds and had they remained in their birth countries it is probable that their paths never would have crossed. This is one of the conflicts of the play, which also addresses the psychological processes an immigrant passes through, ranging from the more casual relationship between them, to the most extreme circumstances.

The intellectual proclaims that he lives in post-socialism, now that he can say and express what he feels. He experiences freedom, but he has lost conflict as a driving force for creativity and his truths must be spoken in the place where they were engendered. On the other hand, the construction worker, his roommate, is his object of analysis and he needs him to cope with the displacement.

The subject and the object become one. The intellectual calls him slave, and challenges him to say what he thinks, without fear. He confronts the worker with his truth: The loss of the sense of the journey. With this he goes into a deeper truth that leads him to question even his own existence.

The truthfulness in his characters, the precision of movement as well as the careful diction, often absent in today’s Cuba, characterize the excellent performance of Daniel Robles. The young actor excels in an way, along with the more experienced Walfrido Serrano, who has returned memorable performances in Teatro El Publico. The latter, however, is excessively theatrical in his delivery at times and should check his laughter which, on occasion, tarnishes his naturalness.

The Emigrants arrives on the Cuban scene and, beyond history versus the individual, Mrozek digs into the human aspect. It brings us to accept out truth without distorting it, makes us live truly in the present and positively influences our future. It leaves us with an individual question: Are we free or are we slaves?