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Cultural Arts Center
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Lost Tango by Mario Diament
Scenery: Jesse Dreikosen
October 21 - November 20, 2005
Lighting: Micheal Foster
Production Stage Manager: Joseph NeSmith
Euriamis Losada - Diego
Barbara Sloan - Valeria
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About Lost Tango
When I was a kid growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina's motion picture industry was considered the Hollywood of the South. There were important studios, majestic movie houses and a constellation of stars whose dreamlike lives were extensively reported in newspapers and magazines. Many of these stars -- Mona Maris, Libertad Lamarque, Imperio Argentina, Linda Cristal, Fernando Lamas, Carlos Thompson - had successful international careers. But others, like Laura Hidalgo, Zully Moreno or Amelia Bence, were essentially local divas (or Latin American divas,) a fact that did not minimize their extraordinary beauty and the impact they had on a teenager like me.
Buenos Aires has always been a city in love with movies. Within five blocks of Lavalle Street, in the heart of Buenos Aires, there were more movie theaters per square mile than in any other city of the world. On Saturday nights, throngs of moviegoers would spill out of the theatres all at once, smothering little kids like me in a swarm of legs and coats. Some of the Argentine films of the time, although generally simplistic and sentimental, have a way of clinging to my memory. I'm still surprised when a scene or a fragment of dialogue from these old movies pops-out unexpectedly in my mind.
When I was nine, I went to see Curtain Up, a film starring the actress and tango singer Virginia Luque. It told the story of a young singer torn between two loves: real love and convenience. There was a third love, though: it was mine. I fell so desperately in love with Virginia Luque, with the intensity of her eyes and her generous mouth that I played hooky for an entire week to go see her, or rather to suffer miserably for my impossible love. Years later, as a journalist, I had the good fortune to get to know personally some of the glorious divas of my adolescence. Their beauty was stamped by the inevitable passage of time, but even then they looked gorgeous and I always considered myself privileged to be in their company.
I started writing Lost Tango thinking about the interesting dramatic situation that a journalistic interview offers. Two strangers meet, one of them asks questions and the other feels compelled to answer. There is no coercion, no legal apparatus that may force the interviewee to discuss and expose his or her intimacy with this stranger, except the enticement, or fear, of the printed word. This also gave me an opportunity to bring together two of the great passions in my life - theater and journalism - into a fencing duel, a game of cat and mouse that, just like in the tango dance, alternates between triumph and defeat. They have a claim over each other: is celebrity a product of the press or is the press feeding on celebrities? The play was conceived as a mystery, and in a way, as homage to the detective flicks that have always fascinated me, in which what seems the obvious truth, suddenly turns out to be false.
The original title of the play was Interview, and this is how it premiered at the Teatro San Martín, in Buenos Aires in 1994. The play was nominated for the ACE Award, presented by Buenos Aires' Critics Association and for the Municipal Award Gregorio de Laferrere. In 1996, it was presented at the Hollywood Boulevard Theatre as "Lost Tango," with Ellen Simmons and David Kwiat. Still under the name of Interview, it was published in the last issue of Modern International Drama, and that's where the director Moshe Yassur read it. Moshe, who lives in New York, had a contract with the legendary Jewish State Theatre of Bucharest, Romania, to produce a play. Along with Lost Tango I sent him The Book of Ruth, which had just been produced by New Theatre.
Moshe wanted a great actress for the role of the recluse diva Valeria Durand and since he couldn't get her at that time, he opted for producing The Book of Ruth instead. Ruth was a resounding success in Bucharest. It entered the permanent repertory of the Jewish State Theater and has just been made into a Television Film by the International Channel of Rumania, for world distribution. The actress that Moshe was hoping to have for Lost Tango was Maia Morgenstern, Rumania's foremost actress. She recently played Mary, mother of Jesus, in Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ and has just finished filming Love is a Survivor, a story about the Holocaust with Tony Curtis and Susannah York, directed by Philip Saville. Maia opened Lost Tango at the TES in Bucarest, on November 26, 2004, with her son Tudor in the role of Diego Goldstein, to rave reviews.
Lost Tango was the first of my plays that Rafael de Acha read, and it prompted him to commission my The Book of Ruth. Since then, and even while we were working on Smithereens and Blind Date, we talked many times of the possibility of staging Lost Tang at New Theatre. So I was thrilled when one day in January, he called me to let me know that he had decided to include it in his upcoming season. People in the theater are fascinated by world premieres. Understandably so, the appearance of a new play is an event as promising as a birth. But on the other hand, the truth is that many of these world premieres, even when blessed by the critics and the public, rarely get another chance of being produced. This is why the forthcoming re-encounter with Lost Tango, ten years after its premiere, makes me as happy as if it were a new play. It not only speaks well of Rafael's courage and capacity to challenge convention, but is also reaffirms the vitality of the text. In more than one way, Lost Tango has been my most difficult play. It underwent countless re-writings until it arrived to the current version, which I consider its final.
One of the reasons for these difficulties was, I suspect, the fact that Tango was a play written in a period of transition, during which I went from my first experiences in the theatre of the absurd and the paradox to a more personal form of theater. Tango has one foot in the world of my play Houseguest and another in that of The Book of Ruth. And Valeria Durand is a character so complex, so full of mystery and surprises that she never ceases to dazzle me. What Tango shares with the rest of my work is the relentless exploration and questioning of the Myth. Perhaps because I grew up in a country of semi-gods, the country of Carlos Gardel, Eva Perón, Che Guevara and Diego Maradona, I always felt the need to draw back the curtain and expose the hoax, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.