Two-Character Play Retells Episode of Sanskrit Epic ‘Mahabarata’

400

Noted Brazilian actors Luca Bianchi and Livia de Bueno will perform the North American and English language premiere of “DHRAMA: The Remarkable Dialogue Between Krishna and Arjuna” at Teatro LATEA in Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street, May 22 to June 8. Written by famed Brazilian playwright/screenwriter/director Joao Falcao and translated by Juliana Pampalona and Camila Mason, the two-character drama retells an episode of the Sanskrit epic “Mahabarata.” It is the first stage work by Falcao to be presented in New York.

Dhrama
Luca Bianchi (L) plays Arjuna and Livia de Bueno (R) plays Krishna. Photo by Vicente de Paulo.

The play dramatizes an episode of “Bhagavad-Gita” (Song of the Lord), a Sanskrit poem that is revered by Hindus as their most important text and the essence of their belief. Set forth in Book VI of “Mahabharata,” it is a dialogue between the incarnate god Krishna and a hero archer, Prince Arjuna, on the holy field of Kurukshetra before the great battle of Mahabharata. Arjuna is loath to wage war against his relatives, friends and revered teachers, and appeals to his charioteer and guide, Krishna, for help. Responding to Arjuna’s confusion and moral dilemma, Krishna exhorts Arjuna to do his own duty as a warrior and prince, reconciling the opposing claims of sacrifice and worldly duty with meditation and renunciation through devotion to God. The Kurukshetra War is an allegory. In its esoteric significance, it signifies mankind’s constant inner war between the tendencies of good and evil.

The epic was adapted into a Shakespearean-style play in 2007 by Joao Falcao, who staged it in Portugese at Espaco SESC Copacabana. The production, titled “DHRAMA, o incrivel dialogo entre Krishna e Arjuna,” was witnessed by Luca Bianchi, a bilingual Brazilian actor who had lived in New York for three years and trained at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. Bianchi resolved to have the play adapted into English and to perform it in NYC, feeling that the city’s experimental theater culture and multicultural traditions would properly nurture such a project. He was also eager to introduce the work of Joao Falcao to New York. He acquired the English-language rights and had the play translated by Brazilian-born translator Juliana Pampalona and edited by the American-born translator Camila Mason. Bianchi is making his directorial debut with this production. He is collaborating on the play’s movement elements with Carlos Fittante, artistic director of BALAM Dance Theatre (BALAM), a company which fuses contemporary dance with Balinese theater. Fittante’s noted works include the story ballet “Ramayana-Abduction of Sita.”

The production is being completely born in New York. Rehearsals began here April 7. Bianchi followed the precedent of the Brazilian production and cast a woman as Krishna, filling the role with Livia de Bueno, an actress well-known in Brazil for her loveliness, with whom he had appeared in the Brazilian film “Artificial Paradises” (2012). Costume design is by the noted Brazilian designer Paula Raia.

The set design is a collaboration between Brazilian Francesca Alterio and American Amanda Nina and will be a battlefield of sand and clay. Sound design by Max Peluffo and Vic Castelli (aka Cassette) will mix instrumental music and experimental sounds, aiming to create tones and rhythms that will act as catalysts to certain emotions. Lighting design is by Alex Moore (USA).

The English translation of Falcao’s text is classical in tone with modern nuances. It will be well-spoken, with the actors’ slight but wonderfully open-voweled Portugese accents adding a distinctive elegance and allure. Stylized, detailed movement will suggest the divinity of the characters, including slow-motion mime which, like Noh Theater, will be quite specific and focused. In Krishna especially, there will be detailed hand, head and eye movement influenced by Balinese dance. Where Arjuna’s movements are occasionally choreographed, they are often inspired by the postures and movements of archery.

Luca Bianchi (Arzuna, Director) is a native of Rio de Janeiro. He is well known in Brazil for the films “Artificial Paradises” (2012), “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within” (2010) and “Luz do Sol” (2007) and the TV series “Copa Hotel” and the soap operas “Luz do Sol” and “Mulheres Apaixonadas.” On the Brazilian stage, he has appeared in “Decameron” (2010), directed by Otavio Muller; “Boca De Cowboy” (2008), directed by Michel Bercowich. He grew up in Ipanema beach, where he started his theatrical training at Casa De Cultura Laura Alvim. Subsequently, he trained at Studio Fatima Toledo in Sao Paulo and studied for three years in New York at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. He holds a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and enjoys surfing, yoga and capoeira.

Livia de Bueno (Krishna) was born in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro. She is known in Brazil for the films “Se puder, dirija” (2013), “Artificial Paradises “(2012), “Saramandaia” (2013), “The Man from the Future” (2011) and “Malu de bicicleta” (2010); the TV series “Oscar Freire 279” and “Avassaladoras” and for the Brazilian soaps “Saramandaia” and “Bicho do Mato.” On stage, she has appeared “Mulheres de Caio” (2011), directed by Delson Antunes; “Colapso” (2010), directed by Hamilton Vaz Pereira and “Pao com Mortadela” (2007-9), directed by Joao Fonseca. She is a member of Brecha Coletivo. She holds degrees in acting and journalism. She appears steadily in Brazilian commercials.

Playwright Joao Falcao is a prominent writer and director, known primarily for his films “A Dog’s Will” (2000), “The Machine” (2005) and “O Coronel e o Lobisomem” (2005). He has also written five productions for Brazilian TV and eleven plays, “A Ver Estrelas,” “O Burgues Ridiculo,” “A Dona da Historia,” “Uma Noite na Lua,” “A Maquina,” “Mamae Nao Pode Saber,” “Cambaio,” “O pequenino grao de areia,” “Ensina-me a viver,” “Clandestinos” and “Gonzagao, a Lenda.”

In 1998, he won The Sharp Award, a prestigious Brazilian theater award, for “O Burgues Ridiculo,” which he adapted and directed, and the Shell Best Play Award, Brazil’s most important theater award, for “A dona da Historia.” In 1999, he received both awards again for “Uma noite na Lua.” His children’s play, “A Ver Estrelas,” received 22 awards in 2011. In 2012, he received the Shell Award for Best Music for “Gonzagao.”

His film awards include the Cinema Brazil Grand Prize (Best Film and Best Screen Play) for “O Auto da Compadecida” and Best Film in the Rio De Janeiro Film Festival for “A Maquina.”

NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE AT TEATRO LATEA FOR “DHRAMA: THE REMARKABLE DIALOGUE BETWEEN KRISHNA AND ARJUNA” FROM BRAZIL

First U.S. production of a play by Joao Falcao will be performed in English by Luca Bianchi and Livia de Bueno. From May 22 to June 8, 2014. Teatro LATEA @ The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street, New York 10002; www.teatrolatea.org

Presented by TETRIS. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM. Tickets are $25. The box office is 212-868-4444 and www.smarttix.com. The show runs one hour.

Jonathan Slaff is a New York publicist in the specialty of international cultural events. Jonathan and his writers keep us ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.