Antonio Skarmeta

The poet in twilight: Neruda before the fall

Milagro's 'Ardiente Paciencia' is a sweet lovers' tale before the outside world lowers the boom

To quote the flower-selling daughter of a well-known Cockney philosopher and man-about-town, “Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words! … Is that all you blighters can do?”

Andrade, Samayoa, Mendoza: the poet and the lovers. Russell J. Young Photography

Andrade, Samayoa, Mendoza: the poet and the lovers. Russell J. Young Photography

Well, no. But even among the most poetically besotted, there are times when life moves beyond the magic of words, and speech should stop. Such a moment arrives, in Antonio Shármenta’s play Ardiente Paciencia, when the young lovers Mario and Beatriz drop their pretenses and their speaking and a good deal of their clothing, and do a slow sensual dance, rolling a fragile raw egg over each other’s bodies in looping patterns that may be like writing and are definitely about feeling and touching and just being. As Miss Eliza Doolittle wouldn’t have had to say if Freddy Eynsford-Hill had had half the gumption and animal sense of Mario the postman, just shut up and show her.

Words are central to Ardiente Paciencia, which has just opened at Milagro Theatre, and which revolves around the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, in the latter years of his life but mostly before the 1973 right-wing coup d’état by Augusto Pinochet and his troops. That other, earlier, September 11 atrocity overthrew Salvador Allende’s elected Socialist government, with which the longtime Communist Neruda had been allied, and inaugurated decades of repression in a nation that had been a comparative beacon of democracy in South America.

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