theater (reviews)

review: [under the radar] diciembre

Diciembre

Written and Directed by Guillermo Calderón
Featuring Mariana Munoz, Trinidad Gonzalez, Jorge Becker
Under the Radar Festival /Teatro en el Blanco and Fundación Teatro a Mil
The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street
production web site: http://www.undertheradarfestival.com/index.php?p=228

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
January 5, 2011

Supertitles when necessary, inserting clarity and additional humor when the rhythm of the English titles can’t keep up or are (perhaps intentionally) out of synch with the rapid fire Spanish of the three actors and their multiple characters on stage.  This is a verbal, mythic, political family tale of siblings, legacies, encroaching armies and the constant question: whose side are you on?

“Jingle Bells” as house music, performed in English in 1960s swinging popular lounge music style ala Perry Como, and program notes and green and red lights on stage suggest that we encounter our characters on stage at Christmas time.  We are in 2014 Santiago, Chile to allow for unnamed future events yet close enough to a present contemporary audiences can understand.  Jorge (Jorge Eduardo Becker Reyes)  is home on military leave to visit his twin sisters Trini (Trinidad del Rosario Gonzalez Jansana) and Mariana (Mariana Soledad Munoz Griffith), apparently pregnant by unnamed fathers.  The dramatic tension centers around whether or not Jorge will return to his unit after his leave, and how everyone feels about politics, the current military actions, and the sacrifices necessary to ensure a future for their country.  An uncle and an aunt stop by, portrayed by these same actors, to further inflame family sentiments and civic passions.

This is a play of poetry, of graphic subject matter (tales of body parts removed and serious wounds) and theatrical possibilities, under a candelabra of light bulbs in white, blue, red, and green.  The actors themselves control lights up and down and effects of various kinds from a laptop on the table at which almost all action commences (and food is eaten).  Yes, you will feel the instinct to read at times, and at others, the humor of these fine actors translates beautifully through face, through body, through spirit.

One character says toward the end of the play: “I feel like I’m December — full of sad holidays.”  This was one of the moments of poetry that worked so well for me. Other sequences made this production feel a bit too Death and the Maiden for my tastes, but over all a poetic and powerful ride.

© Martha Wade Steketee (January 10, 2011)

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