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February 19, 2020 | Theatre,

The Real Life Origins of Plata Quemada

In Buenos Aires, 1965, a daring, complicated bank heist unraveled into a bloody saga that is infamous in South America to this day. Both the bandits’ fate and what happened to the money they stole is nearly beyond belief. This is the story of Plata Quemada — an intense tale of the highest stakes which nods to film classics like Reservoir Dogs and Dog Day Afternoon.

Decades after the newspapers mined the heist and its aftermath for headlines, author Ricardo Piglia published a book length account in 1997’s Plata Quemada, which in turn is the inspiration for TeatroCinema’s stage production coming to ArtsEmerson MAR 11-15.

The cover of Ricardo Piglia's book "Plata quemada." It's a light blue cover with a simple flame graphic in the center.

Piglia is one of Argentina’s best known authors, employing a signature style that blends noirish crime storylines with social commentary. His 1997 novelization of the infamous heist won the Planeta de Novela Prize–Spain’s most prestigious literary award and was called “the finest book of its kind since Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood” by Scotland on Sunday. TeatroCinema has used both Piglia’s style and his text as the basis for their eye-popping, heart-racing production (and just as the author himself appears within the text of the book, there are times when the actors portraying the bandits step out of the role and discuss creating the play itself during the stage production).

Black and white mugshots of the four men involved in the original crime Plata Quemada is based off of.
Photos of the real life participants in the infamous bank heist.

We first meet the central characters in the robbery plot: Gaucho Dorda, Nene Brignone, Cuervo Mereles, and Malito. They make their plans. After robbing the truck, and leaving dead security guards and police in their wake, they escape to a small hideout in Montevideo to await the return of their leader, Malito, who is stocking up on food, alcohol, drugs and weapons. Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, the police, under the direction of the corrupt police commissioner Silva, use violent tactics of their own to discover the identity of the robbers. The chase is on.

Three hundred Uruquayan police officers follow a tip and surround the robbers’ hideout along with TV crews and reporters. Silva arrives from Buenos Aires to lead the seige, hoping to cover up his department’s scandals. A long, bloody, battle erupts between the reckless desperados and the authorities outside. Now trapped and under the influence of narcotics, the robbers decide to burn the stolen cash. If they can’t keep it, no one can.

Original 1965 coverage of the events that inspired Plata Quemada.
Original 1965 coverage of the events that inspired Plata Quemada.

TeatroCinema’s Plata Quemada comes to the Emerson Paramount Center MAR 11-15. Join us for the true story of Argentina’s most daring bank heist unfolds in this eye-popping live-action graphic novel.

A newspaper clipping from an Argentinian newspaper.

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