I had two thoughts as I walked out of the premier TBA performance of Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol's El Rumor del Incendio. The first: "well that was charming." The second: "I want to watch that all over again and not pay one shred of attention to the supertitles." This is not to say that supertitles are superfluous to the show. Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol (you can brush up on them here and here) is a Mexico City based theatre collective and they present El Rumor... in their native tongue so supertitles are necessary for us monolingual dummies, as Alison so nicely put it, to keep up with the dialogue.
And oh is there dialogue. The show is essentially a history lesson in and of itself, mapping out in great detail the tumultuous history of young Mexicans revolutionaries in 1960s and 1970s Mexico. A movement, that to my knowledge has received very little attention in the history books (at least not at my high school) and one that Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol give a very stirring account of. Much of the show, perhaps a good 60% of it, is exposition. There are many events to follow, many names to try to keep track of, and it is easy to get turned around and hard to keep all the people and places straight. Found letters, historical accounts, and audio clips that the group have uncovered are shown and heard, and at times the information coming at the audience in this "documentary play" can be fairly overwhelming.
But lucky for us, Lagartijas Tiradas have found not only creative ways to communicate this information, but they've paired it with action brought charismatically alive by the ensemble Luisa Pardo, Gabino RodrÍguez (Largartijas' founders) and Harold Torres. I seriously could have watched this trio for hours, dialogue or no, they were captivating, personable, and heartwarming.
Which brings me to my point about the supertitles. While the story and the history that Lagartijas Tiradas unwraps in El Rumor del Incendio is mostly conveyed through words, it is the action on stage, in the present, that is the most engaging. The group uses real-time video, models, masks, toy soldiers, even a fish tank (seriously the set is fucking great), to help bolster and convey the history they are telling. And it is this action matched with the stern performances of Gabino, Pardo, and Torres that really make the show worth seeing. Words are great, but it was refreshing to see a play's themes displayed in such a physical and visceral way.
Of course there is a catch-22 here. I probably wouldn't be as excited about the play's physicality if I hadn't been in tune with the narrative the dialogue was mapping out. And that I had to obtain through those dreaded supertitles. But is there a way to tell? I suppose I could go twice. Ah screw it, I'm going twice.