All art is, on some level, testimony against erasure.
“I was here, and this is my mark on the world,” the Picassos, Coltranes and Toni Morrisons of the world seem to say.
This aesthetic thrust is rarely addressed head-on, or with as much gusto as it is in “Cineastas,” Mariano Pensotti’s gleefully experimental “filmic drama” that opened Thursday as part of the Walker Art Center’s Out There series.
Pensotti is showing that he is a visionary with staying power in theater, where performances flee in the moment.
“Cineastas,” which takes place on Mariana Tirantte’s two-tiered set, revolves around four Argentine filmmakers making current work.
On the lower tier, the filmmakers lead their regular lives. One is a husband who discovers he is terminally ill and watches with resignation as his younger wife flirts with the star of his film.
Another filmmaker is crafting a documentary on Soviet musicals. A third figure had a day job at McDonald’s and intends to lampoon the global behemoth. But he’s too good at his job and is promoted, which ironically kills his film dream.
On the upper level of the set, scenes play out from these works-in-progress, including memorable appearances by Ronald McDonald, and a fetching, red-lit scene that’s plucked from 1930s Soviet art.
Surprisingly, there are no projections or even cameras in “Cineastas.” Instead, as commendable actors Horacio Acosta, Javier Lorenzo, Vanessa Maja, Juliana Muras and Marcelo Subiotto do quicksilver turns to play all the characters, the two realms begin to blend. The films start to mirror their makers’ lives and obsessions, which are complicated in Argentina, given a history that includes dirty wars, political disappearances and economic catastrophe.
This history is often handled, paradoxically, in a breezy way. The hurts and pains are as impermanent as life itself.
“Cineastas” is perhaps the most conventional piece in this installment of Out There. “The Evening” was Richard Maxwell’s disjointed experiment about a fighter, a stripper and a manager in a bar; Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido performed a physically engaging “Still Standing You,” about male friendship.
In fact, Pensotti, whose “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal” played at Walker in 2012, may flesh out the back stories of his characters too fully. The show approaches the 100-minute mark, which we start to notice near its wry end.
Still, “Cineastas” is well worth a trip to the Walker, if only to watch this company of actors flex their well-honed theatrical muscles.