Hands Up! Riding shotgun in Teatrocinema’s U.S. premiere of ‘Plata Quemada’
After a dramatic debut to the Boston theater scene in 2016 with “Historia de Amor” the avant-garde Chilean theater company Teatrocinema is back in town with a new U.S. premiere. “Plata Quemada” (“Burnt Money”) runs at ArtsEmerson March 11 through 15, exploring the true story of a bank heist in 1965 Buenos Aires that devolved into a historically renowned shoot out.
Teatrocinema is known for its highly unique staging of theater shows. Using illustration and animation, live actors interact with film projections in a performance styled like a comic book. “Our style is based on the combination of languages, theater, music, comedy and cinema,” says Juan Carlos Zagal, director of the company. “We take it as a big, musical piece, almost as operatic.”
The plot of “Plata Quemada” is taken from true historical events and adapted from a novel of the same name authored by Ricardo Piglia. Set in Rio del Plata (where Piglia lived), the piece follows two lovers who rob a bank with the help of several accomplices. The plan had the complicity of the local police and resulted in the death of several locals. When the group fled to Uruguay with over 7 million pesos, they were pursued by the police in Montevideo, to deadly consequences all around.
Zagal says the most challenging part of adapting the novel to the stage was the vast number of characters. There are only four actors in the show, portraying dozens of people. Making those character transitions convincing in a rapid-fire-paced show was a big hurdle.
Though the story is action-packed, Zagal hopes the audience will analyze the social implications of the tale as well. Because of the apathy of the police and the unwillingness of the local residents to get involved, many people were killed during this saga. “We make a very assertive parallel with today’s society,” says Zagal. “The content speaks about a very corrupt society, very violent, where money and materialism dominate everything.” It’s been 55 years since the bank heist took place, but Zagal intimates that not as much has changed in Latin America as he would have liked.
“We invite the spectators to reflect on how life develops when loneliness and abandonment is what is left for the citizens,” says Zagal. “Each one of us is responsible for what’s going on in our society, in our cities, even in the violent cases.”