'Soto': The Story of a Quasi-life Crisis

Back in 2009, Revolver covered Leche Asada, a play by young playwright and director Alejandra Saavedra about the ups and downs of an insomniac, angsty modern-world woman. This month, the theater Ladrón de Bicicletas in Bellavista presents Saavedra’s second play with her company Retórica Popular: Soto.

 Photo by Haylee Magendans
Photo by Haylee Magendans

This time, the main protagonist is a man simply called Soto. In his mid to late twenty-somethings, he still lives with his invasive family while hesitantly looking for a job. Through the play, Soto endures the tedious interactions of everyday life in Chile -- dealing with lengthy and absurd bureaucracy, a dysfunctional family, the pain of public transports in Santiago and the relationship to the infamous Chilean nana. These experiences are characteristic of his generation, allowing most of the audience to relate to him in a very personal way.

 Photo by Haylee Magendans
Photo by Haylee Magendans

The play’s scenographic style borrows very successfully from different genres. As Soto emphasizes at the beginning of the play, he is but a character in the play that is about to unfold, thus appearing as the antique chorus of a Greek tragedy. Meanwhile, the frantic dynamic of the play, the exaggerated expressions on the actors’ faces and their tendencies to caricature social types to the extreme reflect something of the traditional comedia dell’arte. These genres mix harmoniously with the more contemporary influences of the play, like Soto’s Hollywood-influenced dreams of wealth and success or the all-dancing, all-singing acts that reference the current trend for musicals both on stage and on screen.

 Photo by Haylee Magendans
Photo by Haylee Magendans

When the play was first performed in 2008, actors Renato Jofré (playing little brother Pequeñin) and Cristián Rojas (as Soto) both received Best Actor prizes at Festival 8 para Directores Teatrales, a competition for contemporary Chilean playwrights, and Saavedra a special honorary mention for her stage direction. In the 2011 version of Soto, it is also worth mentioning the energetic Karol Blum, who plays the younger sister with a hilarious rendition of a typical narcissistic, cell phone-addicted teenager. Soto’s mother, played by Valentina Fernandez, is also a memorable character, permanently oscillating between religious ecstasy and nervous breakdown while enjoying to present herself as a modern woman with a healthy conjugal life (she and her husband enjoy important “couple time” by doing the grocery-shopping at the supermarket together, you see).

While the electric atmosphere of the play and of its actors’ performances may, at times, feel slightly overwhelming, the humor, energy and accuracy of these social vignettes make for a very pleasant and funny experience.

Soto
March 25 to May 29, 2011
Thursdays to Saturdays, 8 pm
Sundays, 7 pm
General $5,000; students and seniors $3,000
Teatro Ladrón de Bicicletas
Draguignac 0163, Barrio Bellavista
Metro: Baquedano
Bookings: 735-6040
www.retoricapopular.cl

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