Theater Watch: Sangue no Pescoço do Gato (Blood On a Cat’s Neck) – by Rainer Fassbinder

The highlight in the theatre scene in Rio de Janeiro this month is the absurd play “Blood on a Cat’s Neck” written by Rainer Fassbinder. This production, directed by English director David Herman at the Espaço Yan Michalski is a memorable projection of the complex German play. Mr. Herman, who has been working in Brazil since the 1980’s has been collaborating with local artists for two decades bringing modern classic plays to the brazilian theatre scene. This time, the director has brought Phoebe Zeitgeist (starred by the extraordinary actress Carina Haller) who has been sent to Earth from a distant planet to research the human race. There are eight other characters in the play, all symbolizing a stereotype of the characters in Fassbinder’s life at the time he wrote the play, in 1970. The characters are: a supermodel, a lover, a widow, a policeman, a soldier, a butcher, a professor and the young lady.

The first mesmerizing aspect of this production happens in the opening scene, as Phoebe (Carina Haller) wonders around planet Earth, where a gigantic piece of real raw meat hangs from the ceiling in the butcher station while a TV plays a black and white video of extreme occurrences from the characters’ life. The video on stage is a tribute to the playwright, Fassbinder, who was also a well-known filmmaker in his time. This starting combination of a dead animal hanging from the celling, a video of people doing obscene human activities and Phoebe’s exploration (a sequence of well choreographed movements as she interprets the scene) is extremely disturbing and intriguing. This is not your average theater play. This is a heated production, where rape, drugs, madness, destructive innocence, lies and passionate love make up a story that forces the audience to take a good look at themselves.

The play has three acts and the scenes are not connected to each other, except for Phoebe who witnesses them all, learning how to behave, think and talk like a human. The character arc portrayed by Carina Haller is impeccable. It is through her eyes that the audience is able to make sense of the absurd play, making her responsibility gigantic in this role. At first, she is a foreign creature who does not recognize anything she sees, but then she starts copying the physicality of the characters and repeating what they say, without any judgment of course, because as a being from another planet, she is not biased.  Carina Haller’s ingenuity and grace is captivating throughout. Her imagination in this part is something every actor should witness. There are specific themes in each one of the scenes: fighting, falling in love, theft, cheating, money, friendship, sex, homosexuality, prostitution, marriage and etc. In each one, a different facet of human beings can be seen: the passionate side, the desperate side, and the infuriated side and so on. The humanity in the play is portrayed in a raw, take it or leave it kind of way, but isn’t that how we truly are in extreme situations?

By the end of the second act, there is a party where all the different characters interact with one another for the first time, including Phoebe. She starts to talk with the characters, quoting lines she learned from previous scenes, and completely out of context. This creates chaos and misunderstanding in the party and as the characters ostracize Phoebe, she becomes frightened and endangered. Once again, Carina Haller’s range captivates, as she turns from playful to terrified like a caged animal. In order to protect herself, Phoebe bites the characters on the neck thus killing them and finding herself completely alone in Earth, ready to begin from scratch. Whether she will keep the laughter and bliss from the young lady experiencing falling in love for the first time, or the destructive lover’s twisted addiction to sex and drugs is left up in the air. The point is, everyone in the audience is Phoebe, having to make decisions on how to live their lives.

Special recognition goes to Carina Haller for her talented interpretation of Phoebe, for Carolina Ferman as the Young Lady who falls in love with an older man and Eduardo Muniz as the Butcher who struggles with a love hate relationship with his aggressive father.

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