BWW Reviews: INCENDIOS Burns with Passion at Kennedy Center's International Festival

BWW Reviews: INCENDIOS Burns with Passion at Kennedy Center's International Festival

Washington's Kennedy Center showcases more than a dozen productions from around the globe for the 2014 festival that continues through March 30, 2014.

Tapioca Inn, a vibrant theatre company from Mexico, contributed to the 2014 World Stages International Theater Festival with a bold rendering of Incendios. Layer after layer of truth is peeled away as a family's quest for answers leads them on a searing voyage into the past. The ensemble cast brought intense emotion and a fierce commitment to the unique story performed in Spanish with English surtitles.

What a story! Julia and Simon, twin siblings, gather at the reading of their mother's will. It is clear the relationship between Nawal and her children is fraught with pain and frustration. Simon practically tears his heart out over the reading of the will, whereas Julia faces the moment with stillness and stoicism. We find that Julia is a teacher; Simon is a boxer.

Nawal's will stipulates several unusual codicils: Simon and Julia must deliver letters to their father - thought to be dead - and a brother they never knew existed. Nawal is to be buried face-down and naked without a headstone until her truth is uncovered.

As they are lead back to the villages where Nawal grew up and into the strife of civil war that ripped them apart for many years, the siblings must also face deep secrets about their family.

If this story is at all familiar, it could be from the stage or screen. Lebanese Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad's Incendies premiered in 2003. Translated into English by Linda Gaborieu as Scorched, the play was performed by the Forum Theatre in the fall of 2010. A film version by Denis Villeneuve, using the original title, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film during the 2011 Academy Awards.

Tapioca Inn, with a strong acting ensemble, brought a ritualistic simplicity to Incendios as presented in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Gallery. A long series of wooden tables and several chairs were lit with the simplest of lighting schemes. The tables became roads, gravesites, homes and prison cells. The streamlined staging, with the audience seated to the right and left, allowed for the actors to sit along the playing area for the entire performance. Their concentration when not acting was as intense as when they were onstage in character - and that's saying something. No emotion was spared and no passion was left to the audience's imagination throughout the nearly three hour performance.

Director Hector Arrevillaga's concept of stripping away all but the most essential artifice allowed the performers to inhabit a myriad of characters as they moved back and forth in time. The acting ensemble was simply listed in the program in alphabetical order, pointing up the fact that they are all servants of the drama at hand. Alejandra Chacón, Karina Gidi, Jorge León, Concepción, Márquez, Pedro Mira, Javier Oliván, Rebeca Trejo, and Guillermo Villegas each contributed to the clarity of the storytelling.

The one drawback to reviewing this production: it's over by the time this appears on Broadway World. The nature of the World Stages Festival is that each one of the 13 productions from 20 different countries only have a few performances each. Tapioca Inn has already packed up their tables and chairs and moved on to another venue.

There are still many more productions to catch. Click HERE to go to the Kennedy Center's World Stages webpage. Here you can find detailed information on the remaining performances representing France, Canada, South Africa, England, Israel, China, Japan, and Iraq.

As mentioned by World Stages curator Alicia Adams, Incendios represents the spirit of the festival. "Mexico's Tapioca Inn theater company performs Incendios, a story of family conflict and political inheritance by Lebanese Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad."

Theatre, the ultimate collaborative art form, can transcend language differences and cross borders in an effort to illuminate the human experience. World Stages brings this mission home to our nation's capital, now through March 30.

To purchase tickets for the World Stages Festival or any Kennedy Center performances, click HERE.


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Jeffrey Walker Jeff Walker teaches theatre arts in Northern Virginia. He is also an award-winning theatre critic. Currently he is a regular contributor to DC Theatre Scene and Broadway World's DC region. He also writes Stage Views, a regular column for the theatre reviews and views for the Culpeper Times. Jeff is also an experienced director and actor and has performed in musicals, Shakespeare, classics, operettas, and contemporary works.


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