Espinosa wanted to create the perfect theater, but realized that a project of that size was pretty difficult to achieve. So he decided to scale everything down – 1:87 – so his perfect theater became the size of a suitcase that he could actually bring along with him, the actors small figurines. The result is an extraordinary theater experience: in groups of 25 and seated by size (with binoculars for everybody), the audience gathers around a table where Espinosa sets up his unmoving dolls in a way to tell a moving stories in a few scenes, accompanied by music, sometimes a bit of video (played on a tablet) and always with a sense of humor. You can get an idea of how this works here.
I loved Mi gran obra. It was such a beautiful way of using the rather rigorous restrictions of the format to tell big stories with even bigger emotions and such an innovative way to deal with theater itself, it was magical.
There’s an intimacy in watching a play at that scale, with so few people in the audience, even when you have to use binoculars to see the details of what’s going on – an intimacy that usually gets lost in the theater setting where it’s more of a communal experience (which also has its advantages). In this case, maybe also because I was seated away from my mother and sister as I’m taller than them, it pretty much felt like the play was put on especially for me – which is a rare feeling to get in more crowded settings.
Though I suspect that it also had to do with Espinosa himself, who gave a brief and very lively introduction before we went in and then completely changed his demeanor once he sat down to let the figurines perform. He seemed to sink into his play, his facial expressions and deep focus as much part of the play as the music and the characters he put up on stage (another big difference to usual theater performances where the director is not visible). And his absorption into what was happening on stage somehow translated directly to the audience (or at least to me).
That being said, there were a couple of things in the scenes that didn’t work for me that well. I could have done without the strippers, as if not even a show with figurines could do without sexualized female bodies, or the joke with the flasher in the kids’ park, for example. And it would have been nice if there had been more cohesion between the scenes, although there is something to be said for this way of telling stories that is basically the equivalent of a short story collection.
In any case, it is a good thing that the program is short (about an hour). Mostly because it really gets exhausting to watch the events through opera glasses and I am not sure if I would have managed for much longer – although I wouldn’t have minded if I had gotten more of the play. And I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it again.