“There is no violence. The explosion of galaxies is violent. A comet falling on Jupiter making seven big holes is violent. The birth of a child is very violent… I’ve been invited by dying people to witness their last moments. Even if they die peacefully, it is violent.”
So begins Fernando Arrabal’s FANDO Y LIS, translated from Spanish and directed by Emily Schuman as part of the Fringe Festival. Arrabal’s work is unfamiliar to many English-language theatergoers, but stands as an exemplar of mid-20th century modernism, alongside Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionescu, and other practitioners of the Theater of the Absurd. On the basis of this presentation, he deserves his place.
In this quiet yet deeply violent work, Fando (Harry Watermeier) transports the paralyzed Lis (Schuman) in a cart as the make their way to the mythical Tar (“It’s not that it’s impossible to get there, it’s that no one has ever made it there before”). They encounter fellow travelers (Dane Eissler, Leslie Miller, Caleb Murphy), deep in argument about whether the important thing is where the wind comes from, or where the wind goes to. Schuman’s translation is natural when it needs to be and vibrantly absurd when called for. Her Lis is spirited yet beaten-down. Watermeier’s inscrutable Fando alternates between loving and aggression. Their arguments culminate in a harrowing scene of violence. And so FANDO Y LIS ends as it begins, with Fando holding Lis, delivering a monologue: “There is no violence…” [Shubin Theater, 407 Bainbridge Street] September 20-22, 2014; fringearts.com/fando-y-lis-by-fernando-arrabal.