We are in the middle of a theater festival and this helps us escape the boring programming on television and the limited recreational choices, almost all in convertible pesos, of the Havana night. Guided by the drama and comedy, we try to dispel our everyday problems, the frustrations and doubts created by this script of the absurd in which we live. But in these darkened rooms we don’t always manage the evasion, rather we may find keys to revisit and reinterpret our reality.
On Saturday, a small local theater, Agros, on the corner of Ayestaran and May 20th Streets, put on Samuel Beckett’s play, “Endgame.” We went early to find space on the rustic wooden benches. Believe me, nearly two hours without a backrest on a hard bench can only be tolerated if the staging is excellent. Well, the night before last was the kind to make you forget your cramps and aching neck. And not through amusement or laughter, but by creating that torment that keeps us in suspense, that human anxiety that draws our attention to everything we lack.
An elderly man, blind and dying, maintains an abusive relationship with his servant, keeping him submissive, controlling him through habit and blackmail. In a wheelchair, the capricious patient wants to direct everything that happens and uses the eyes of his subject to do so. A sickly gratitude and the inability to imagine other life circumstances tie Clov to his master Hamm and postpone the day when he will achieve independence. Through a dirty window he sees the sea, a symbol of everything outside that is prohibited, of everything we are forbidden to experience.
Later we walked home, utterly overcome by the apprehension engendered by the drama. The black-painted walls were too strong, the shouts of the despot demanding attention and calling out to us—with so much coarseness and familiarity, “the unspeakable nature of the relations of power, its mystery and its rituals of blame, blackmail, impositions, pardons, manipulations…”*
* Remarks by Carlos Celdran, director of Argos Theater, in the program notes for “Endgame,” performed by Pancho García, Waldo Franco, Jose Luis Hidalgo, Veronica Diaz.