Bandoneon player Nario Recoba could practically anchor a show by himself. In GALA Hispanic Theatre’s current offering, “Puro Tango 2,” the Uruguayan native sits onstage, near his two bandmates, balancing his instrument (a type of concertina) on one knee. Recoba doesn’t distract from the production, a glorified song cabaret with a little dance thrown in. But if your eyes stray from the singers — who include Uruguayan tango vocalists Nelson Pino and Maria de los Angeles — or from the sultry hoofers, you may notice that Recoba, telegraphing zest, is particularly fun to watch.
The bandoneon player often smiles with glee as the music capers along its exuberant or soulful path; his shoulders rise as he feels the emotion of a song; he taps a foot jauntily; and at one point he even raps his fingertips lightly on his instrument, generating a soft but fervent percussion. His obvious delight in the sound spinning out around him seems to speak to the enthusiasm many people feel for tango, the musical and choreographic form with which the bandoneon has long been associated.
That enthusiasm no doubt inspired “Puro Tango 2,” which was created and directed by GALA producing artistic director Hugo Medrano and follows the theater’s 2012 production “Puro Tango.” Tuneful, but unlikely to thrill people who are not serious tango enthusiasts, the current show unfurls on a set that resembles a Disneyland version of a South American seaport plaza. Ship masts appear to jut upward from behind a balustrade that lines a flagstone square, with the three-person band (including the show’s musical director, Alvaro Hagopian, at a grand piano) seated stage right.
The velvet-voiced Pino, de los Angeles and the gifted singer Elisa Cordova stand on the plaza crooning songs, making way occasionally for Argentine dancers Jeremias Massera and Mariela Barufaldi, who display the requisite sensual physicality — now precise, now molten. (Mariana Fernandez designed the glamorous, frequently changed costumes, as well as the set.) Cecilia de Feo appears periodically to serve as an emcee figure, supplying perfunctory patter linking the songs.
Could we have seen the birth of a franchise? Are “Puro Tango 3” and “Puro Tango 4” slinking down the pike? If so, here’s hoping they at least feature Recoba, or some equally engaging bandoneon virtuoso.
Wren is a freelance writer.
Conceived and directed by Hugo Medrano. Lighting design, Joseph R. Walls; sound, Adam W. Johnson. In Spanish with English surtitles; translation by Medrano. 1 hour and 50 minutes. Tickets: $20- $42. Through June 22 at GALA Theatre, 3333 14th Street, NW, Washington.
Call 800-494-8497 or 202-234-7174, or visit www.galatheatre.org.