Local legend Quantum Theatre offers a fascinating experience in sound and sight, an experimental stage work by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla and Uruguayan poet Horacio Ferrer. It's Maria de Buenos Aires, a short, opera-like piece staged in what resembles a night club.
Much makes it memorable, including the superb singing of richly voiced Argentine mezzo-soprano Raquel Winnica Young, as Maria, and fine playing by a small, impressive orchestra led from the piano by Andres Cladera. Moreover, Joseph Seamans adds to the variety and invention with all kinds of video effects. Director Karla Boos keeps the style and action full of personality. It also has rather mundane choreography by Attack Theatre. Clearly there's a lot going on.
The entire, deliberately non-realistic work is full of symbolism and intentionally complex language. The original Spanish narration is supplemented in English by cast member Boos and with screen projections. The audience is provided with a printed synopsis which also posits that we could read into the work a parallel with the life, death and re-birth of tango itself. Certainly that's a marginal issue for most of us. Never mind. Because what consistently counts most is being constantly, compellingly stirred by Piazzolla's highly personal and dramatic re-working of that traditional Argentine dance.
Other details to admire: impressive, yet subtle bandoneon playing by Benjamin Bogart; vibrant cello performance by Arthur Moncrieffe; and full-of-panache narration by Carolina Loyola-Garcia.
Boos stages this in the now-defunct East Liberty YMCA. That fits the concept, given that the progression of the narrative line presumably evokes the altered history of the tango at Piazzolla's hands, i.e., the passing of the old into something new. Even as East Liberty is transforming.
Not that watching the performance is less interesting than listening. Rather, what the work intends to convey doesn't matter as much as how colorfully and inventively it comes across. Letting yourself go into the pulse of the rhythm and the surge of the melodies you can be swept away. There's no need to stop and think how. Or why.
MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES through Sun., April 17. East Liberty YMCA, 120 S. Whitfield St., East Liberty. 888-718-4253 or www.quantumtheatre.com