(*) Ewa Procter
Over the years, when I have been writing my monthly articles for “The Umbrella”, there were times when some people told me that my material had been published when the play I was reviewing was about to finish its run! I agree that this was the case many times, because runs of plays in Brazil (with some exceptions) are usually much shorter than those in England or the United States.
However, this is not the case of “Tom Na Fazenda”! It is now in its third run, after having started in March at the Teatro Oi Futuro, before moving to the Teatro SESI downtown Rio de Janeiro, and now to the Teatro Poeirinha where it will be playing until the 17th of December.
This play by prize-winning Canadian author, Michel Mac Bouchard was first staged in Montreal, Canada in 2011, before being presented in a number of other countries. However, the writer was unknown in Brazil, although “Tom Na Fazenda” (or “Tom à la Ferme”, in its original title) was also made into a film in 2013.
It is a very strong play, dealing with issues such as the inability of the individual to deal with prejudice, weakness, violence and failure. And “Tom Na Fazenda” goes through all the nuances of these issues. The story brings us Tom who, after the death of his companion, goes to the deceased’s family farm to attend the funeral. When he arrives, he discovers that his mother-in-law had never heard of him, and also that she did not know that her son was gay. In this severe rural atmosphere, Tom gets involved in a plot of lies created by the truculent brother of the deceased, and establishes a relationship of complicated dependency with that family. Slowly, the farm becomes the scenery of a dangerous game where as the characters get nearer, the shadow of their contradictions becomes stronger.
Rodrigo Portella, the director, believes that those who are guardians of sexuality rules, always with a view of guaranteeing the so-called normal heterosexual behavior, are responsible for planting in their own family members the seeds of homophobia. He adds that Bouchard has written a play with an impeccable structure; and that the author goes deep into the contradictions of his characters, something that brings them very near to us. Thus, Portella decided once again for a staging with few elements, in order to enhance the subtlety of the relationships proposed by the play and bringing those elements to stand out. Here, I quote Leon Tolstoy (1828-1910) when he wrote (in translation): “Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.”
Armando Babaioff who translated the play, and also takes the role of “Tom” had been looking for a project to do together with Gustavo Vaz (who took the part of the brother). In the first two runs, the cast was Armando Babaioff, Kelzy Ecard, Gustavo Vaz, and Camila Nhary. However, in its now third run, there have been some changes in the cast: Kelzy Ecard has been replaced by Analu Prestes, and Gustavo Vaz by Gustavo Rodrigues. My opinion is that the two actors who left had never expected the play to run for so long, so they had already committed themselves with other projects! However, these changes in the cast do not diminish the strength and excellent acting that the play brings to its audience!
“Tom Na Fazenda” is on at the Teatro Poeirinha, a smaller theatre adjoining the Teatro Poeira on the same complex (the two theatres even share the same box-office, so when buying the tickets tell the attendant what play you want to see). It is located on Rua São João Batista, 104 – Botafogo. Telephone number: 2537-8053. Performances take place from Thursday to Saturday at 09:00 P.M, and Sundays at 07:00 P.M. Price of tickets is R$ 60,00 (sixty Reais) with a 50% (fifty percent) discount for students and senior citizens. Censorship is for young people under the age of eighteen. The play lasts for 110 minutes. There is no formal parking at the theatre, only at the neighboring streets, but a lot of taxis wait at the door when the performances are over. There is also a small café on the premises, so you can have a snack, a cup of coffee or a soft drink before entering the theatre itself.
I wish to add that this play is a very exciting experience. However, do not count on beautiful sets and costumes: the action takes place on a farm, so there is mud on the floor and the actors finish the performance with both their bodies and their clothes all dirty!
*) Ewa Procter is a writer and a theater translator,
and Chair of the Instituto Cultural Chiquinha Gonzaga