“The title was so related to my intentions with this play,” said playwright Mariano Pensotti in an email interview. “The image of the past as some grotesque animal that changes shape every time you think about it is so close to what happens with the past and the lived experiences when you try to remember them or retell them in the present. The past is always changing.”
Inspired by discarded photographs Pensotti found outside an old photo shop, the play is about the lives of four Argentineans, ages 25 to 35.
“There’s something quite dramatic that usually happens during that age, the confrontation between expectations and reality,” Pensotti said. “There’s a common feeling that you should be different than what you are, that you should be better or someone else. In my plays I’ve been always interested in characters that want to become somebody else.”
One man wants to be an indie filmmaker but instead makes beer commercials, and a woman steals her father’s money to become an artist in Paris but ends up working in a Christian theme park.
All this while trying to settle into life in Buenos Aires during the economic recession between 1999 and 2009.
The protagonists’ stories — which are performed on a slowly rotating stage — reflect on the moment when we stop being who we think we are. Capturing that moment through a modern-day lens was “more appealing,” Pensotti said, “than to take on a distant decade, probably more studied and fictionalized already.”
“El pasado es un animal grotesco” is performed in Spanish with English surtitles (translations projected on a screen above the stage) and is recommended for mature audiences.
Almudena Crespo photo