Un Poyo Rojo is “deliciously deceptive, sidesplittingly antagonistic, and completely perfect.”
The house lights go down and we sit in the pitch black for a few moments. When the lights come up, Nicolás Poggi and Luciano Rosso stare out at the audience silently – two men in an empty locker room. The performers stay like this, unmoving, for a full minute: an unnerving amount of time. Then the performance begins.
Un Poyo Rojo was created ten years ago by Nicolás Poggi, Luciano Rosso, Alfonso Barón, and Hermes Gaido. The production has been touring internationally since 2015. This season, Un Poyo Rojo comes to Toronto with Canadian Stage at The Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre.
Un Poyo Rojo is an undefinable feat of performativity. The performers vacillate wildly between styles from hip hop to ballet, acrobatics to body percussion, interpretive dance to wrestling. They even throw in a quick twerk.
Sometimes the performers look like puppets, their movements seemingly involuntary. At other times, their movements are deliberate and calculated. In seconds they transition from one character to the next. They move as one body, then as competitors, rivals, predator and prey, and lovers, to name a few.
With no discernible plot in the first half of the performance, interpretations of these characters are left to the audience. My guest said every time you felt like you were starting to grasp a story, Poggi and Rosso twisted out of your fingers in absolutely hilarious contortions.
Un Poyo Rojo subverts expectations at every turn in this way. One discernible take is its challenge to depictions of traditional masculinity and sexuality. Through performative masculinity, the actors riotously derail portrayals of macho wrestlers, virile matadors, and two men in a locker room.
There is no dialogue in this performance and, astonishingly, no music for much of the first half. Despite this, it only takes minutes to become completely engrossed in the performance. Poggi and Rosso’s breaths punctuate the silence as they effortlessly carry this circus-like routine.
The pacing of this show is masterful. The actors tumble wildly onstage in a display of endless animation. There are no scene changes, but between the less structured first half and the slightly more plot-driven second half, the actors become still as Poggi scrolls through channels on a radio.
The music from the crackling radio replaces the silence of the first half of the performance. The two actors take a break from their acrobatics, creating anticipation like a pot waiting to boil over. After a long scene of stillness, broken up by Rosso’s comedic reactions to the changing radio stations, the performers spill back into their acrobatics with a crescendo of energy.
The radio becomes a character and the performers jump so immediately into perfectly synced choreography with the music from the changing stations, that I was sure the music was pre-recorded. But at the end of the performance, when our standing ovation quiets down, Rosso tells us the radio is actually live and those parts of the performance are somewhat improvised.
It’s almost impossible to believe. Every moment of the performance is accounted for with movement, even when that movement is just in Rosso’s amazingly expressive face. Un Poyo Rojo is deliciously deceptive, sidesplittingly antagonistic, and completely perfect.
- Un Poyo Rojo is playing until October 11, 2019 at The Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
- Shows run Tuesday to Thursday and Saturdays at 8pm, Fridays at 7 pm, with an additional matinee on Sundays at 2pm
- Ticket prices range from $49 – $79
- Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-368-3110, or in person at the box office
Photo of Nicolás Poggi and Luciano Rosso by Andrée Lanthier