La Cueca, the national folk dance of Chile, was once a courting dance of subtle seduction; women and men would stand across from one another, intermingling feverish footsteps with one hand raised above their head and in that same hand, as if in surrender to one another, a cloth would swing round and round.
But as Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship ravaged the South American country and atrocities piled up, men were often called away for military duty or kidnapped. As a result, the dance of couples became the dance of one: women in mourning for their missing partners.
On Friday, February 18, at Art Solar in East Hampton, a performance space which also doubles as gallery containing a collection of works by Latin American artists, actress and playwright Andrea Goldman’s original 45-minute play “La Cueca” will debut and tell the story of a dance of a different kind: the performance husbands and wives often present to each other after years of marriage and the resulting highs, lows and everything in-between.
Instantly pulling the audience into the experience, guests will descend into the depths of its main characters’ strife and find themselves immersed in their world as it rapidly closes in—the play begins with its characters buried alive.
“It is metaphorical,” said Ms. Goldman. “It’s about a
couple buried under all of the things that happened to them ... It asks you to consider, how can you move forward or unbury yourself from the weight of life and time?”
The play, which is directed by Ben Sergeant and also stars Abraham de Funes, was described by Ms. Goldman and Art Solar owner Esperanza Leon as one that runs parallel to the circumstances of the country its characters hail from.
“It’s interesting to consider how people choose to remember the past; even years after Pinochet was out of power, there were many people whose memories were selective or skewed,” said Ms. Goldman. “That is similar to the dynamic of romantic relationships that way.”
The play “La Cueca” began as a poem Ms. Goldman wrote a little over a year ago. She said the poem’s progression into a play was an organic development. Ultimately, Ms. Leon met Ms. Goldman through a friend in Manhattan, though initially, talk of the play was somewhat fleeting.
“Then late last year, I’m in the city at another show and ran into Andrea again; she thought [Art Solar] would be an ideal space for the production,” said Ms. Leon. “We talked more about it and that was that; I didn’t read the script word for word because honestly, I wanted to be a part of the initial experience, I wanted to see it the way the audience will.”
Ms. Goldman described the character of Sonia, who she will portray, as a woman who is passionate in every sense of the word.
“Sonia is similar to me in some ways, but maybe more emotional than I; she is expressive, she is an artist and a dancer and a woman who has been through a lot but remains optimistic,” she explained.
Conflict arises when Sonia’s fiery passion meets head on with her husband, Howard. Though Howard’s sensibilities match hers, according to Ms. Goldman, his inner fire is more of a controlled burn.
“He is a professor and writer-type, a political science type. He applies more reasoning to everything,” she said.
One example of Howard’s calculating passion, is when at one point, he says to Sonia, “I didn’t have to tell you I loved you because I married you.”
“Clearly, he is more rational-minded. If Howard is the straight sturdy pole, than Sonia is the tether which flails wildly off of it,” she noted.
Howard will be portrayed by Mr. de Funes, a Manhattan-based actor. And though Ms. Goldman and Ms. Leon said they did not want to undergo a lengthy casting process, it was many months before he was finally cast.
“I saw him in a production in New York City, but I had met him at acting classes before,” Ms. Leon said. “He has much to bring to the role; he’s very much like Howard. He’s logical yet still has intense passion.”
Of the play’s director, Mr. Sergeant, Ms. Goldman noted that he developed a more hands-on approach.
“Sometimes we would spend three hours working on a single section of dialogue. He really brings a strong sensitivity to everything he does,” she said.
For the audience, Ms. Leon said she hopes “La Cueca” will be a unique experience. Indeed, this is the first time a play will be staged at Art Solar.
“Beneath the rubble where these characters are trapped, you are pulled in visually and emotionally and you are forced to be close with them, the space here really lends to that forced sense of intimacy,” she said.