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December 9, 2022

`Bolero` at Hungarian Theatre in Cluj:Intimist tragedy

A surprising Imola Kezdi: an old maid biting her nails, surviving with the alibi of a pedagogical vocation, compulsively eating sweets and trying to control her brother in a protective way. Frustrated, anxious, compulsive, immerged in domestic rituals, deeply unhappy. Benign for the others, but neurotic masochistic. Coexisting with the fear of unpredictable gestures through the anachronism of the old wound still unhealed. The flow of life is kind of apparent, because the failure she had suffered long ago has sentenced her to a potentiality repeatedly postponed. This is not life, as it is unable to reap other fruits than those of an inadequate reverie. A swallowed cry, because guilt is ambiguous and make a liberating judgment impossible.
Only a remarkable actress could suggest all this in a play designed in a register rather minimalist. `Bolero`, written by Peter Demeny and directed by Istvan Albu, is a modest intimate drama: a family plagued by the specter of a suicidal, adulterer and bossy father. Otherwise, an intellectual with the cult of literature, especially in a standardized and stuffy world like the communist one. The scenography depicts the era, by putting together vintage fetish objects as an extension of the society in an intimate space that failed to truly become a retreat. The balcony offers the image of a typical neighborhood, a concourse of blocks without any perspective than the forced agglutination of human atoms. Some manage to come out of this tragic concrete harmony, driven by a fateful gravity. The suicide of the `father` is motivated by a failed marriage, but the era’s rigidity seems somehow related to the outcome.
As a ‘bolero’ with a steady pace, but with rising intensity, from imperceptible to paroxysmal – the metaphor of an exasperating prison. Peter Demeny’s play succeeds in talking about a particular past through a seemingly timeless drama: conjugal frustration, paternal authoritarianism, filial inhibition. All `frozen’ suddenly without any possibility of recovery due to some ambiguous feelings of guilt. As far as conscience is concerned, suicide has turned the victims into culprits. Could not have been the `suicide` of the former regime that caused perverse guilty to those who had tolerated the abuse of authority? Some kind of oedipal complex of the children who did not have the courage to ‘murder’ their `father ‘. But such suggestions remain in the background in the play of Istvan Albu, because the atmosphere is soaked rather by the presence of the mother, the priestess of an outdated and hilarious domestic cult, but not lacking certain tenderness.
She is trying to revive, even artificially, that broken familiarity. But her attempt ends in failure, because her final paralysis is an expression of a suspended world unable to reform psychologically. But the play has another stake. The family’s privacy, with the succession of household gestures, relaxation and taunts, loneliness and exuberance, is trying hardly to converge with the dense ideals of poetry. How does the poetic rhythm combine with the prose of life? The postmodern writers responded to this question by bringing the poetry down in the street. Another way, followed also by Peter Demeny, is the poetic redemption of daily dramas. Because, despite a dense scenography, the actors dominate the space with the aura of the characters, marking their vitality at the expense of a tyranny of objects, with their subjugating functionality. Sometimes hilarious, tragically well-tempered, sometimes showing an affectionate humour, the atmosphere reveals a tipsy poetry, but not strident. It manages to fill a void rather than dissipate the anxiety. The combination of unreality and agglutinated concreteness brings to light an intimate poetry beyond feelings.

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