“SENSATIONAL SUCCESS,” reads the promotional banner on Avenida Corrientes advertising tickets to one of the hottest stage shows in Argentina.
It’s the final week of showings of Casados con hijos, a stage play adapted from the hit US sitcom, Married with Children, and tickets are flying.
With a full house debut at the 3,200-capacity Gran Rex, one of the largest theatres in Buenos Aires, and extra Carnaval dates added to the register, Casados con hijos is undeniably popular and lucrative. Originally a successful series of the same name on Argentine television network Telefe back in the 1990s, tickets to this new show range between 7,000 and 12,000 pesos a head. And so far, viewers have been willing to dish out the hefty price tag.
Months before the show’s planned release date in mid-2020, Casados con hijos sold tens of thousands of tickets. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the play was put on hold for two years, though the fervour for tickets did not die down.
Since January 5, the Argento family – Argentina’s counterparts to the Bundys of the original sitcom, a dysfunctional and unhappy family from the suburbs of Chicago – has entertained live audiences of over 3,000. Guillermo Francella and Florencia Peña, who played Pepe and his wife, Moni Argento, on the television classic, take the same role on the stage, struggling with their two children –– played by real-life siblings Luisana and Darío Lopilato –– as they survive in the working-class neighbourhood of Bajo Flores.
Much like the American Bundys, the Argentos aren’t the happiest or luckiest bunch, and they struggle with Pepe’s low income, Moni’s extravagences, and the clumsiness of the children. The family is constantly sparring with each other and with their neighbours, the Fuceneccos, the husband of which is played on screen and on stage by Marcelo De Bellis. His wife, María Elena Fuseneco, was played by Érica Rivas in the TV series, though her character was controversially written out of the theatrical production after a conflict between the star and the play’s producers over the script.
Rivas, who will soon star in the upcoming Netflix production of Claudia Pinero’s hit novel, Elena Sabe, said that the scriptwriters of the show fired her and called her a “feminazi” after she asked for revisions to the script to remove jokes making fun of a female character’s appearance, according to reports by the Exitoína entertainment website.
“I don't understand how at this point in history we can continue to laugh at a woman's moustache. You could laugh but that can't be the punch line of the joke because it's no longer funny,” Rivas charged.
For some viewers, the humour of both the US and Argentine versions of the show is seen as old-fashioned, sexist, and even vulgar. Critics have pointed to episodes that glorify the objectification of women and sexual harassment, as well as make light of homophobia in condeming the show’s antiquated script.
Despite the show’s controversies, the on-stage production has had measurable success in its almost two months of running. The show’s producers did not answer enquiries from the Times about how many people have seen the show during this run, but with at least eight performances weekly running from Wednesday to Sunday, the show is likely bringing in hundreds of millions of pesos a week.