“Nada Del Amor Me Produce Envidia” (“I Don’t Envy Love”), presented by Flor de un Dia, is an extraordinary one-woman play about envy and the profound black shadow of solitude that will come for us, all of us, one day.The Argentinean musical melodrama, which opened during the XXVII International Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami, reveals the story of a homely seamstress-songstress with limited talent. Played by the divine Maria Merlino, her character simultaneously rejects and envies love, and craves the glamorous life of her glitzy clientele.
One of those clients is Libertad Lamarque — one of Argentina’s most famous actresses and singers. The other client: the iconic Eva Peron. One day Eva Peron walks into Merlino’s workshop while she is making a dress for Libertad. Peron wants it. “How much is this dress?” is the question that catapults Merlino into an existential crisis. Merlino’s bland-as-a-water-biscuit life is suddenly at the epicenter of Argentina’s social sphere. She is the queen maker. Who will get the dress?
When confronted with such an epic crisis, many of us would handle it as Merlino’s character handled it — with absolutely clumsy naivete and song! And this is what makes Merlino’s character so authentic and loveable. She embodies vulnerability. She reaches for the core of what she wants and what she desires — attention — and uses the power of her wobbly meek voice, the true, non-auto-tuned voice, to win the audience over.
I won’t reveal who gets the dress because it doesn’t matter. What I will say is this: Santiago Loza’s play is a superb, not-a-word-wasted melodrama that captures the complex, fractured ego of woman who finds solace in the spotlight locked away inside her workspace making gowns for women who live lives she will never lead, but desires. Eschewing the world, the world came to her and made her choose this life or that — no matter how much it hurt.
Confronting our fears: not fun. Confronting them alone is even less exciting. After the play, no one wanted to leave Teatro Prometeo because “Nada Del Amor” asked the question and Maria Merlino delivered the response: theater is the answer. It can show us the complex relationship between self-love and self-doubt and how they move us to act and act out in unpredictable ways that sometimes betray our nature. Theater can also show us how language, setting, lighting, sound and sublime acting converge to create seemingly effortless magic, grace and beauty. And it can also show us that life moves on even after the lights go out.
The International Hispanic Theatre Festival (IHTF) of Miami runs through July 29th and features an eclectic mix of productions from around the globe. For the program and times, visit www.teatroavante.com/english/program.aspx.