Não Há Camelos Nessa Peça: Vestido de Noiva, de Nelson Rodrigues

Em 2007…

Semana que vem, estréia aqui em Nova Orleans uma montagem de “Vestido de Noiva”, de Nelson Rodrigues. Não é sempre que se monta teatro brasileiro por essas bandas. Minha turma de português está lendo “O Beijo no Asfalto” e vou levá-los para ver “Vestido de Noiva” também – apesar do espetáculo ser em inglês, naturalmente. O diretor da peça me convidou para assistir aos ensaios e escrever o programa, apresentando a obra e o autor para um público que provavelmente nunca ouviu falar deles. Aqui vai:

There Are No Camels in This Play

There are no camels in the Koran, writes Jorge Luis Borges; this absence alone proves the authenticity of the Arabian book. Borges was pulling his readers legs, of course (there are several camels in the Koran!), but his point stands.

In “The Wedding Dress”, you will find none of the stereotypes you might (rightly or wrongly) associate with Brazil: there are no mulatas, slums, beaches, soccer, slavery, coffee or supermodels. Not even biofuel or Brazilian wax.

And, nevertheless, you are about to watch what is arguably the best Brazilian play of the twentieth century, written by its arguably best playwright. The double “arguably” is no accident: both Nelson Rodrigues and his ouvre are still being hotly debated as we speak.

Usually set in the conservative suburbs of mid-century Rio de Janeiro, most of his plays, novels and short-stories (one could almost say all) deal with his relentless idée fixe: adultery, sometimes accompanied by incest, bestiality, pedophilia, necrophilia and, of course, generous servings of murder.

Who was Nelson Rodrigues himself? The title of his most recent biography captures his many ambiguities and contradictions: “The Pornographic Angel”. In an artistic establishment almost unanimously liberal, he had the temerity of proclaiming himself a reactionary and supporting the right-wing military dictatorship. His artistic goal, or so he said, was to write moral plays denouncing the sins and vices of society.

But society, apparently, was not convinced. Nelson Rodrigues was considered to be an immoral pornographer, the greatest enemy of the Brazilian catholic family, an author who did his best to promote deviant, unacceptable sexual behavior. Despite his support of the regime and his well-connected friends in high places, his works were constantly censored and prosecuted.

The Nelson Rodrigues you are about to meet, however, is considerably younger and more well-behaved than his older self. He wrote “The Wedding Dress” in his late 20s and it was only his second play. There is adultery and murder, of course, but almost naively when compared to later works. Most of all, “The Wedding Dress” is his most avant-garde play: its revolutionary, complex structure is certainly not what most viewers would expect from Latin American drama of the 1940s.

The action takes place simultaneously in three planes: reality, memory and hallucination. We follow the main character Alaíde through her real life (being hit by a car and undergoing surgery), her past history (stealing her sister’s love interest and finding the diary of a known prostitute) and her disconnected, agonizing rambles as she fights for her life on the operating table.

The performance you are about to watch includes one important deviation from the original play: two actresses playing the role of Alaíde instead of just one. From the actor’s point of view, it breaks an almost impossible role into two: the original, “unified” Alaíde had to constantly change clothes and hop from one stage to another, making it both physically and mentally demanding. To the audience, most importantly, having two Alaídes allows them to interact and argue between themselves, heightening the dramatic potential of the play and, ultimately, improving it.

Nelson Rodrigues would probably have approved.

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