The Empty Chalices/Los calices vacios--The Life and Poetry of Delmira Agustini | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Empty Chalices/Los calices vacios--The Life and Poetry of Delmira Agustini

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The Empty Chalices/Los calices vacios--The Life and Poetry of Delmira Agustini, Aguijon Theater Company. Playwright Judy Veramendi shows an unusual dedication to the life and art of Uruguayan writer Delmira Agustini--and judging by the poetry incorporated in her biographical play, it's wholly warranted. Aguijon's production, under the direction of Rosario Vargas, contains many beautiful moments and lush stage images that capture the wild, brooding, sensual longings beneath this doomed writer's superficial propriety. (Her estranged husband shot her to death at age 27 in 1914, then turned the gun on himself.) Marcela Munoz, well cast as the poet, never resorts to annoying child-woman mannerisms in her portrayal of this repressed yet revolutionary soul.

Veramendi also wrote a novel of the same title, taken from an Agustini poem, and the play occasionally has the clunky feel of an adaptation. Expository dialogue seems more necessary for the audience than suited to the characters. And the attempt to include all of Agustini's lovers and mentors muddles the significance of each. But there's enough promise here to warrant further development.

Hearing Agustini's imagistic, word-drunk paeans to "the ineffable" (as one of her best poems is entitled) in English is immensely rewarding, but Aguijon is also giving the play a Spanish-language staging on Fridays and Sundays.

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