This Truly Is Tango
Theatre review by Nico Lizarraga
Originally published by Pasion Argentina USA

July 2018

The experimental theater piece “That’s Not Tango,” a combination of monologue and live music, returned to the stage this July. True to his music and his life, the show begins with an aggressive intensity, a strong Astor piece played by the trio. The trio [comprising bandoneon, violin and piano] is on stage all through the show, for almost two hours, without a break. 

Spoken in English, the creator and actress Lesley Karsten personifies Piazzolla, speaking after his death. Lesley has translated Argentine slang very effectively. I went to the show with some doubts, but soon I forgot that Lesley was not Astor. To write the piece she sought the advce of Fernando Gonzalez, an Argentine writer and translator of Maestro Piazzolla’s memoirs, and Kip Hanrahan, the producer of one of the tanguero’s best recordings.

In the play, Piazzolla tells his story, beginning with his childhood in New York, living blocks away from SubCulture, the very place where the production was being performed. Young Astor talks about growing up in the neighborhood, which at that time was both Italian and Jewish, and where he heard the music that influenced his compositions. After every chapter and while Lesley played Mr. Piazzolla, we heard some of his pieces or music that influenced his work. Throughout the work, Lesley picked the perfect moments to feature the music for maximum impact.

San Juan (Argentina) native J.P. Jofre plays bandoneón in Piazzolla’s manner, standing up and with instrument over his knee. Jofre understands the drama. His movements and gestures worked perfectly with the content. The three musicians … performed the music with a passion and perfection that would have made Maestro Astor Piazzolla proud.

That´s Not Tango achieves something very difficult: capturing the soul of an artist in 90 minutes.

Translated by Fernando Gonzalez