Nelson Rodrigues’s characters do not end well—strangled, shot, burned to death. Hanging is the most common denouement. Even when a man does die of more-or-less natural causes (let’s say he collapses after reading an unflattering tabloid article), he’s quickly revealed as a pedophile and an abortionist. This all seems like theatrical stuff, so the Lord Strange Company and Tantrum Theater have adapted several of these stories into a play. Though Rodrigues originally published them in a Brazilian newspaper, under the heading “Life As It Is,” the producers have selected the title Pornographic Angel. The title apparently does not stem from the inspiration behind many a
Penthouse pictorial, but from Rodrigues’s declaration that, “I am a child who sees love through a keyhole. . . . I am, and have always been, a pornographic angel.”
In the play, director Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento lets the audience spy on adultery, cross-dressing, and various other indiscretions. However, the actors are never really allowed to inhabit their characters, and as the script hop-scotches from one story to another, it becomes difficult to tell just who precisely is zoomin’ whom. Though Nascimento makes use of manifold visual elements—costumes, lighting, props, video—she hasn’t quite translated these stories to the stage. Third-person narration is often spoken aloud, dialogue rendered exactly. A few cuts are made, but the text is itself treated rather sacredly. Perhaps Nascimento should have followed Rodrigues’s wayward, faithless characters and taken more liberties.