luni, 20 iulie 2020

Sfantul Mitica Blajinul by Aurel Baranga - Eight out of 10

Sfantul Mitica Blajinul by Aurel Baranga
Eight out of 10

Since theaters are closed due to the pandemic, unless they have a way to use open spaces for some productions, it seems like a very good idea to benefit from the ‘Teatrul de Televiziune’, the program of the National Public Broadcaster, the third Channel, that used to have until recently one play every single day, but has reduced that to just two for the weekend, a reduction that is certainly wrong, given that people have no, or let us say few options at the time of the pandemic and maybe they would watch more in the safety of their homes, albeit if the offer is not enticing, the virus would not make any difference. Besides, one can watch this and better alternatives online…

Sfantul Mitica Blajinul is not the most exciting performance you might see, but it does have an appeal, starting with a cast that includes some of the best actors in the land, with Petre Gheorghiu in the leading role – on a personal note, in 1990 I used to drive and park in front of his apartment building, not as stalking fan, but because I may have adored the aspiring actress and the first Beauty Queen of the country who took private lessons from the master who had a reputation as an excellent teacher and indeed, probably contributed decisively to the success of her entry exam in the next year…in the meantime, she is quite well known, maybe not as famous as the teacher, but there is a chance that people know her even better.
Though the play is not brilliant, it does make some points and is helped by the rest of actors, with Stela Popescu as secretary Adela, one of the best comedy actors we have ever had, Dem Radulescu – the one who supervised the class where the aforementioned beauty queen has been studying and malevolent and gossipy voices would tell me that she tried to use her intimate charms to advance her career (we can include this petty, vulgar, tabloid stuff here for our audience is so small as to be considered family and friends and we can venture into such territory with them)- who has the role of
Gheorghe Mitrofan.

The local legend Amza Pellea plays the director Ion Cristea and another iconic figure, Tamara Buciuceanu Frosa, in what is ultimately a watchable production, especially when the choice is Godzilla 2, as was the case last night, when the options were limited to this play, films that have been seen before and the HBO premiere of Godzilla 2 (no than you), which uses satire to expose flaws in human nature and the system, as for the latter, this work is not abrasive, fervent enough to be an attack on the communist philosophy and thus to be banned as subversive material, at least in the first period, with years passing by, censorship would target any reference and was attentive to words like hunger, queues and any criticism or lines that could be conceived as such would not pass the censors and with that standard in place, probably this work joined the long list of creations on the black list.

Mitica Blajinul has been working for the Archives for the last twenty years, when he has arrived with his longtime colleague, the secretary Adela, and they now celebrate this occasion, which happens to be the day when the manager has another anniversary, for he is sixty years old and about to be surprised by his boss, Ion Cristea aka Amza Pellea, who is archetype of the parvenu, incompetent but arriviste, always looking for the tectonic plates that move and bring about change in the hierarchy and he is ready to please the lucky apparatchiks that are placed in positions of power…in the communist days there were so many jokes about competence, militia, the idiot dictator and they were meant to help us through the dark, the hunger, cold, long queues for anything eatable, bread, milk and they also helped give a modicum of freedom, a sense that although in a whisper and in a corner we could take shots at the loathsome bastards…
Hence, we said ‘it is not what you know, but whom you know that matters’, the quote from Jerome K. Jerome ‘I love work, I can watch people work for hours’ sounded so true, then there was a series of blagues with the comrades from the USSR and the west: ‘on such a visit, the guest asks how many people work in the factory they take a tour of and the answer is I guess about half’ for we also had ‘we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us’ and finally, the genie anecdote that has so many forms around the world… a local plays with the famous lamp, the genie is released and offers the well-known three wishes…first, he wants to live in America (for this is well before the idiot Trump, remember?), then he wants money in abundance, but when the first two desires are fulfilled and his third and last wish is to never work again in his life, he is back in our country again…

Mitica Blajinul and the office receive the visit of the Big Kahuna – though trembling and changing colors, opinions, maneuvers, likes and dislikes according to the winds that blow and change peons above him – director Ion Cristea, who has with him an attractive woman – he keeps looking once in a while, with a languorous, suggestive, nay evident look that betrays the skills and the intended tasks that will be assigned to this luscious presence – who will replace secretary Adela, a woman that after 20 years of loyalty and dedication will be transferred to a village, 30 kilometers away from the city, but with a bus that stops in front of the school where she will start working…furthermore, now that he is sixty years old, Mitica is to be pensioned off.
The reasons are that the communist system – and if we look at America, Brazil, Philippines, Venezuela and so many other places, there is enough room for calamitous incompetence in capitalism too – is so well summarized by Animal Farm, with ‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’ and those in positions of power abuse it like in no other regime, because they can use the terror, this is a system that allows for no opposition, which is sent to the gulag to work and die, and the pigs and the dogs promote the likes of Miss Boboc, the favorite of the director who expects sexual favors from her and eventually, if this is possible, other benefits, if she is the relative or confidant of someone higher in the nomenclature.

Then there is the case of the replacement of the loyal, sixty years old manager, with a sleepy fool, who is the brother of some woman married very high up, the nobility of the past is replaced therefore by an ‘aristocracy’ – inept, barbaric, primitive, hungry for power and money as it is – of the ‘working classes’ and they use the strings in whatever manner they can, and since they have the dogs aka the militia, security apparatus, ‘law enforcement’ has come to mean we make the laws and we are the law, but it does not touch us.

6 out of 10 for Click

Five out of Ten for Legend