Premise: The protagonist in Eduardo Orozco’s play Asatia discovers that dedicating one’s life to designing and achieving goals does not guarantee happiness.
Strolling with my son after a delectable meal at Luciferina on Colonia Juárez in Mexico City, we found ourselves facing a small storefront with a sign “El Milagro.” It occurred to me that it must be the press that publishes so many of the film scripts and plays occupying a prominent place on my bookshelves in Buffalo, NY. Inside we found not only a bookstore and a bar but also a small black box theatre in the back. A play was about to start and 2 of the 21 seats were still available.
The two actors, Verónica Bravo and Eduardo Orozco, playing the roles of Paula and Matías, stood facing the audience as we walked in. She was carrying her cello and he stood with his feet apart and hands behind his back holding a laptop. The minimalist set was composed of a light couch, a desk, and a chair. The walls were bare except for an empty picture frame.
The characters’ first words clarified that she was at a street corner waiting for a ride and he had just come out of the concert in which she had performed. Their short conversation revealed that he was an aspiring pianist and that she, at the young age of 25 was already an accomplished cellist who played for the Mexican National Symphony Orchestra. Despite holding a position coveted by many, Paula’s dream was to eventually play for the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.
While Bravo plays the role of Paula throughout the entire performance, Orozco is primarily Matías, but he additionally morphs into the playwright/narrator, her father, her mother, her roommate, a pianist, an artist, etc. Orozco’s transformations from one character to the other merely entail slight voice inflexions. The lack of change in setting or costumes allows the audience to remain focused on the female character, who is unquestionably the center of the play.
Fluctuating between dialogues and narrative accounts, Asatia is a profound meditation of the desperate human need for recognition. Ultimately, Paula’s inability to fill that need sends her to her presumed death. In her final soliloquy, she defines the emptiness of her life as an illness due to the insatiable need to be seen, heard, and valued. She describes the need to find herself in the eyes of others, which points to a lack of self-acceptance. She asserts that she exists only when there is an audience clapping and listening to her music. Although she claims to have experienced the ecstasy of oneness with her environment while playing or rehearsing, the occasions are few and far between. Once she realizes that she is not the best cellist in the world, that all she sees in the mirror is her curriculum vitae, and that her life is equivalent to an unsatisfied hunger, life is no longer worth living.
The depression that Paula exhibits at the end is manifested throughout the play, but because initially, her career moves linearly toward its peak, we hope she will find fulfilment. This inkling of hope materializes when Paula pauses from her long hours of rehearsals to fall in love. Yet she chooses to go play for the Berlin Symphony Orchestra instead of staying in Mexico with the one she loves. The bare scenery, the cello she carries on her back throughout the play, and the definition of the term “asatia” all underscore the insurmountable void at her core.
Early on in the play, the characters explain that “asatia” is a combination of the words sadness and dissatisfaction. It means to be fully satisfied, yet to feel nothing but emptiness. It refers to the inability to live in and enjoy the present. It is the feeling produced by having achieved all of one’s goals and finally realizing that they do not fill the void.
Eduardo Orozco and Verónica Bravo are part of an ensemble called Colectivo Berenjena. Orozco’s script was the winner of a contest sponsored by Vaca 35 Teatro en Grupo, which included space at the Teatro Milagro to be performed.
In her review, Eugenia Galeano Inclán indicates that, according to the group of actors, the play reflects the shock of not getting the acting jobs they all expected upon graduation. After investing endless hours rehearsing, studying, memorizing lines, and sacrificing friendships and relationships, it is difficult to face the disappointment of being unemployed. The play, however, emphasizes Paula’s story and therefore is more about the inability to feel satisfied with one’s accomplishments, rather than about not realizing one’s goals.
The play first opened at El Milagro theatre in November 2016. It has been staged in various venues and is currently (September 2017) being performed at Teatro La Capilla in Coyoacán, at the southern end of Mexico City.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.