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May 8 - 31, 2008
Volvió una Noche (She Returned One Night)
Reviewed May 11 by Brad Hathaway

Running time 1:50 - one intermission
A supernatural comedy from Argentina

Click here to buy the script in English

For theatergoers fluent in Spanish, here's a bright, fun and genuinely funny comedy that washes over you in laughs. For non-Spanish speaking theatergoers, watching the play in Spanish while reading the English surtitles is a bit more work. In this case, however, that work is rewarded handsomely. This is particularly noteworthy for a comedy as humor can often be the victim of the concentration on surtitles and the lack of control the performers have over the timing of their lines reaching your funny bone. No such problem this night. The laughs which resound from those who are sitting in the first four rows where the surtitles aren't quite as visible are echoed just as strongly along the rear two rows marked for those who want a clear view of the surtitle screen. Sure its predictable. Sure its formulaic. Sure its silly. But it works because such a formula for silliness works when done well and here it is done well.

Storyline: Manuel visits his mother's grave frequently to report on his life. He can't see her, but she hangs on his every word. When he says he's being married the next day, she returns from the grave to check on her offspring and finds, to her horror, that he may have been stretching the truth a bit in his graveside reports of his successes. Her son is the only one who can see or hear her, resulting in complications on the eve of his marriage. Throw in an Archangel (complete with wings) and you have a diverting comedy.

Eduardo Rovner is an Argentinean playwright who ran his own theater in Buenos Aires until this play became enough of a hit to encourage him to take up playwriting full time. It won the Casas de Américas award for best Latin American Play in 1991 and went on to success not just in Argentina but in Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay as well as getting solid productions outside of Latin America (Finland, Israel and now the United States). Its success is in part understandable because, while it has some verbal comedy with apparently witty turns of phrase, its basic humor is plot driven and the story is clearly told in a physical way - there are plenty of opportunities for solid physical actions and big, bold reactions, while the characters are easily kept straight as the plot unfolds. This reviewer is not fluent in Spanish and, thus, can’t attest to the accuracy or quality of David Bradley’s translation. However, the text as displayed, is both easily readable and apparently full – it shows no sign of being simple encapsulations or short summaries of longer speeches.

The script calls for energy and that is precisely what it gets from Mario Marcel’s staging, at least in the performances of the two leads: Peter Pereyra as Manuel and the very funny Nucky Walder as his confused but determined late mother. Each is very good on his/her own, and there is a comic chemistry between them that acts to multiply the fun for their joint scenes. Anabel Marcano lifts the energy level a notch higher as Manuel’s intended bride.

The set consists primarily of a relatively typical apartment with a bedroom with doors leading to a bathroom and closet on one side, a living room/dining room on the other with an area to the side for the graveyard scenes. It is wide enough to provide the players with plenty of space in each area so that their interaction is clear without being cramped. The costumes serve their functions well, especially the white robe and wings of Marcela Ferlito’s Archangel.

Written by Eduardo Rovner. Translated by David Bradley. Directed by Mario Marcel. Design: Mario Marcel (set and sound) Cecile Heatley, Loona ,and Rosita Becker (costumes) Cecile Heatley, Loona, and Nucky Walder (properties) Ayun Fedorcha (lights) Raymond Gniewek (photography). Cast: Alex Alburqueque, Marcela Ferlito, Alex López-Montañez, Anabel Marcano, Gerald Montoya, Peter Pereyra, Cynthia Urrunaga, Nucky Walder.

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February 7 - March 1, 2008
Frida Kahlo, la pasión (Frida Kahlo, the Passion)
Reviewed by David Siegel

Running time 2:15 - one intermission
A bio-play done with great care
Performed in Spanish with English Subtitles

With great care and high-mindedness, Teatro de la Luna provides audiences the opportunity to see Argentinean playwright Ricardo Halac’s brief biographical play with its sometimes ardent view of the stormy marriage between Mexican painter and Marxist Frida Kahlo and her husband, political fellow traveler and muralist, Diego Rivera, along with their complex relationship with glamorous actress Maria Félix. This is not a melodrama full of fire. Rather, this is an interior piece centered upon the physical pain and personal frustrations felt by Kahlo; unable to have children and often incapable of providing the physical intimacies her husband craves with the result that he beds women right under her nose. The script revolves around Kahlo and how her torments affect her marriage, her relationships, her world views and her paintings. As Kahlo, Anable Marcano grows into her pain and becomes one with Kahlo until it consumes her. Walking stiffly, dressed in indigenous peasant clothes, flat shoes, her hair tightly wound around her head, she displays an inner beauty and strength when compared to Cynthia Urrunaga’s sophisticated up-town looks as Félix. Peter Pereyra's Rivera is a bit too airy and light in depicting a celebrated muralist with a magnetic personality.

Storyline: The pain-ridden life of the great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and her tempestuous marriage to muralist Diego Rivera are depicted along with their Marxist politics and complicated relationship with femme fatale actress Maria Félix.

Director Mario Marcel has taken what could have been a static talkfest of a script and turned it into a theatrical piece worth seeing for those interested in the life of Kahlo, a painter whose works have been exhibited in museums in the DC area. In his casting, Marcel found his Kahlo in Anabel Marcano, with her deep beauty and strong features. The audience soon feels that Marcano cares about Kahlo and her life, and that her portrayal is more than another acting job. Marcel surrounds Marcano nicely with Cynthia Urrunaga, with her glowing pale prettiness, and Pereyra, a handsome man, but certainly not the elephant that he is called in the script. For those who know of Kahlo, playwright Halac provides a concise sense of the era, but somehow the history of those turbulent times seems cold and lifeless. There really was revolution in air. Those who know little of Kahlo or her Marxist beliefs may wonder what all the fuss is about. The final scene in which Kahlo’s paintings come to the fore seems late to the production. Some of Kahlo’s works might have been used earlier to entice the audience with visual depictions of what Kahlo was speaking of when she spoke of her work as a painter.

Marcano throws herself into the role, not with a “chewing the scenery” approach, but rather by inhabiting the pain and suffering that Kahlo endured. She can and does project that pain whenever she speaks in her deliberate manner; each word having difficulty leaving her mouth as if each brings pain to her body. With her costumes and makeup, one can “believe” it is Kahlo on the stage. The handsome and athletic Pereyra has the tough chore of providing some essence to the role of Rivera. Pereyra doesn't give the audience a sense of the magnetism Rivera has with women with a deep sense of soul that would be mesmerizing to women or to those who saw him as a revolutionary. He has a monologue in each act to get beyond being a "moon" to Marcano’s "sun" but his words are too quickly gone from memory. Urrunaga is one cool woman in a body hugging black dress adorned with any number of fur coats, stoles and wraps which she throws about as if they were of little value. With her lush, almost lacquered black hair, pale cream skin, dark red lipstick and heels, when she walks into a scene, she simply collides with Marcano's peasant appearance.

The technical work for the production, especially the lighting by Ayun Fedorcha, is very appealing. With her lighting choices and the use of a large scrim to divide the set, there are several attention-grabbing scenes. The set itself is all a clutter, as it should be, with painter’s canvases, work spaces and easels. The overall central focus of the production design is a bed in the front center of the set. Hair dresser and make-up artist Lorenzo Gonzalez is to be congratulated for his work. And whoever located the fur coats, deserves kudos for some lovely selections, especially one very rich looking coat with a full collar that seemed to caress Urrunaga as she slowly ran her hands over the fur.

Written by Ricardo Halac. Directed by and set design by Mario Marcel. Design: Ayun Fedorcha (lights) Rosita Becker and Nucky Walder (costumes) Lorenzo Gonzalez (hair and make-up) Raymond Gniewek (photography). Cast: Anabel Marcano, Peter Pereyra, Cynthia Urrunaga, Cynthia Ortiz-Urrunaga.

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October 12 - 21, 2006
Como Rellenar un Bikini Salvaje
(How to Fill a Wild Bikini)
Reviewed by Brad Hathaway

Running time 1:10 - no intermission
A solo-performer show from Uruguay
Performances in Spanish with audio English translation

Teatro de la Luna is as well known for hosting productions of notable theater companies or notable performers from throughout the Hispanic world, often offering shows that can be seen nowhere else in the United States, as it is for its own productions. Each Spring the company sponsors the International Festival of Hispanic Theater. This fall they are hosting work from Mexico and Uruguay, starting with Uruguayan actress Graciela Rodríguez in a one-woman show written by Brazilian Miguel Falabella, who wrote the comedy Nosotras que nos queremos tanto (We Who Love Each Other) which Teatro de la Luna produced in its 2000-01 season. This comedy is a production of Regina Productions of Montevideo, the capital city of that South American nation on the Atlantic coast between Brazil and Argentina.

Storyline: An actress makes up stories about the people she sees in her audience, and as they come alive in her mind, she acts out their stories.

Coaches in public speaking courses sometimes tell students who suffer from severe stage freight at the mere thought of standing before a group and delivering a speech that they can overcome their fear by the simple trick of imagining their audience naked - naked people are supposed to be somehow less frightening or at least less imposing. Actors and actresses may resort to this trick as well, but there are other tricks available. One is to make up stories in their heads to make the individuals whose faces they can make out more human and less daunting. That's the process that kicks off this comedy by Miguel Falabella. It is an excuse for a talented actress to bring to life the "backstories" she creates in her mind.

Solo-performer/multiple-character shows can be fascinating because of the characters portrayed or because of the skill of the performer, or both. Here, it is more the skill of the performer that is satisfying than the compelling nature of the characters she creates. One is a winy old woman who pays her analyst to listen to her complaints. Another is the analyst. Others are the people in the old lady's life, such as her sister who is traveling through Turkey and Egypt. None of these people are particularly interesting in and of themselves. It is the rapid switches in identity of Rodríguez' characterizations that is fun to watch.

Rodríguez performs the entire piece on a nearly bare stage. There's just a single platform that doubles as a bench at some times and a couch at others. Properties are similarly simple -- a few telephones. Her red jump suit of a costume is set off with a silky red cape. She clearly distinguishes between each character and her rapid transitions will be clear to you whether you are listening to her directly or to the English translation provided by earphones available in the lobby when you enter. There is a lot of text being translated because some of the characters, especially the winy old lady, are very talkative. As a result, it takes a bit of getting used to watching the performance while listening to the translator.

Written by Miguel Falabella. Directed by Omar Varela. Music by Estela Magnone and Alexis Buenseñor. Costume by Nelson Mancebo. Translations by Omar Varela and A. Caballero. Performed by Graciela Rodríguez.

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May 20 - June 18, 2005
Continente Viril (Virile Continent)

Reviewed May 21
Running time 2:10 - one intermission
Performed in Spanish with English surtitles
A satire focusing on Argentina's period of military rule, environmental concerns and national pride

The "virile continent" is Antartica, a man's world where isolation and the extremes of nature combine, in Argentinian playwright Alejandro Acobino's mind, to expose the nerve endings of a small group in a small outpost. Director Mario Marcel refers to the piece as a "surrealistic grotesque satire" and it is an apt description not only of the text they are working from but of the approach he has his cast pursue. The cast of four provide energetic, very clear characterizations in the acting styles which would be over-broad for a more subtle piece but which match the structure of Acobino's piece quite nicely.

Storyline: The penguins are committing suicide in Antarctica and the three-man outpost established by Argentina to operate the southernmost radio station (30 meters further south than neighboring Chile's) are visited by an investigator who wants to understand why.

In the last few years there have been investigations into unexplained reductions in the penguin populations of the Falklands and other areas surrounding Antartica, but the fact that the radio station is under the command of a military officer seems to set this satire in the era of the military junta that ruled from 1976 to 1983. The link to the junta-dominated period is interesting given that the author was only four at the time of the coup, and in his early teens when democracy returned. Indeed, the text is quite sophisticated and involves a satisfyingly complex mix of targets for lampoon for the work of an author who is still just in his thirties. The text is, as is often the case with a satire, fairly wordy, and as a result, the translation projected on a panel suspended above the action requires those with limited facility in Spanish to pay close attention to both the words above and the action below. It is, therefore, fortunate that the translation by Gae Schmitt is well written with few of the awkward turns of phrase that can afflict too-literal translations.

Marcel designed a two-area set to facilitate the use of projections of nature photographs of Antarctica for the journey of the investigator on his way to the outpost, which is represented by a highly detailed interior. The fact that Willie Padín, as the investigator, carries the railing of the ship from which he was viewing those projections into the interior simply telegraphs the grotesquerie of the style of the production. It isn't the first laugh of the night but it is the one that really sets the tone the evening will strike.

Padín is very funny in a number of his scenes, but it is Angel Torres and Peter Pereyra who get most of the laughs. Torres's strength in the role of the commander is his ability to command the stage. Even when his character announces his intention to fraternize with his subordinates, he retains his assumption of superiority which makes the scene work. Pereyra is equally good at the role of the subordinate who knows full well how to control his superior. Carlos Parra has a few sharp moments as well as the civilian employee of the outpost. Together, the four work well in a play that requires reliance on comic timing. They will probably get even sharper as the run continues.

Written by Alejandro Acobino. Directed by Mario Marcel. Fight choreography by Monalisa Arias.  Design: Mario Marcel (set and sound) Nucky Walder (costumes) Cecile Heatley (properties)  Ayun Fedorcha (lights) Gae Schmitt (translation) Marcela Ferlito (surtitle operator) Raymond Gniewek (photography). Cast: Willie Padín, Carlos Parra, Peter Pereyra, Angel Torres. 

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May 14 - June 12, 2004

Reviewed May 22
Running time 1 hour 30 minutes

The lovely last scene of this play by Argentina’s Jorge Accáme caps an evening that ranges from mildly diverting to intriguing. Ah, but that final scene is such a gem! After what seemed to be a fairly run of the mill comedy with a few nice touches and some fairly poised performances, suddenly the entire feel of the piece changes radically. The lighting, the special effects of wind and snow, the music cue, the earnest demeanor of the entire cast elevates the program to a level it didn't even seem to aspire to up to that point. The magic of the moment works all the more precisely because it isn't preceded with multiple efforts to reach the same level.

Storyline: The girls in the brothel of the small town of Jujuy in northwest Argentina are amused by their blind madam's desire to travel to Venice, Italy, in the hope of reuniting with the love of her youth. The girls decide to take her to Venice but soon discover just how far away Italy is and how expensive the trip would be. Since the madam is blind, they decide to fake the journey assuming that she won't be able to see that they are not telling the truth as they describe the flight to and tour of Venice. They get so involved in the project they begin to believe in the trip themselves.

The trio of young girls who ply their trade in the establishment of Nucky Walder's "Gringa" are Anabel Marcano, a young and enthusiastic new recruit, Claudia Torres, a lithe and energetic dancer and Muriel Alfonseca, an older and more cynical practitioner of the old profession. The three work together as an ensemble quite well, and while there isn't a great deal of depth to any one of the characters, that is the nature of the script and not a failing of the cast. Director Mario Marcel doesn't call for much in the way of deep characterization either but he handles some of the physical comedy brightly.

Peter Pereyra is getting yet more exposure in the region as the randy young man who handles the equipment for the girls' project. (He was last seen in the Washington Shakespeare Company's production of Waiting for Godot). Much of the success of the scenes in which he and the girls assemble old tires, plywood planks and such into structures the blind "Gringa" believes to be airplanes and gondolas is due to his apparent belief that the ruse will work.

The play is the work of Argentine playwright Jorge Accáme who abandoned his native Buenos Aires to live and write in the small village of Jujuy - the same Jujuy where the brothel is located. As with all the productions of Teatro de la Luna, the play is performed in Spanish with a simultaneous English translation available through headsets for those who wish them. Theater lovers will be intrigued by the fact that the translation being used here was prepared by Arthur Laurents - yes, the same Arthur Laurents who wrote West Side Story and Gypsy.  

Written Jorge Accáme. Translation by Arthur Laurents. Directed by Mario Marcel. Design: Mariano Lucioni (set and photography) Mike Daniels (lights). Cast: Hernando Acuña, Murial Alfonseca, Anabel Marcano, Peter Pereyra, Claudia Torres, Nucky Walder.

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October 17 - November 15, 2003

Reviewed October 18
Running time 1 hour 25 minutes

“Manteca” in Spanish. “Lard” in English. The three-person play by Cuban playwright Alberto Pedro Torriente is performed as it was written, in Spanish. This gives it a certain energy and fire which is well portrayed by the cast. If you don’t speak Spanish, simultaneous translation into English is available through headsets. The translation is precise but unobtrusive enough to allow the Cuban sensitivities to come through from the three viewpoints the author uses in what is essentially a three-sided conversation. It is filled with references that the participants recognize instantly for what they are, but which the audience needs to decipher as more and more information becomes available.

Storyline: In modern day Havana two brothers and a sister share an apartment. They also share hopes, fears, a history and, as siblings are wont to do, not a few irritations. One New Year’s Eve they bicker over a decision they are facing and the concerns they have over their pasts. What begins as mere bickering escalates and the presentation which begins as highly naturalistic scenes of conversation becomes more abstract as elements of film projection and allegorical staging effects build to a climax.

The three actors on stage create distinctly different characters, each clearly hewing to their own view of the world. As an ensemble they create a sense of family. As individuals, they have very different stories. Leslie Yáñez is the sister, still irked at the failure of the outside world to support Cuba under Castro - she goes on about everything from the decision of Nikita Khrushchev to withdraw the missiles that prompted the crisis with Kennedy (“Niki is an indian-giver” ) to “those seven nations that are always meeting in Europe.” Her theory is that Cuba is depressed because “we never had dinosaurs” and therefore, don’t have oil deposits. Peter Pereyra is a poet/novelist with a life style his siblings can’t fully understand let alone condone. Harold Ruíz is the older brother who went to Russia to study engineering but whose life has come to much less than he expected as the Soviet Union collapsed, his wife left him and took their children back to her homeland.

Ruíz also directs and he paces the performance fairly mechanically as the script only seems to provide a single progression from minor squabbling among siblings through to the climax. Still, it is a short, one-act play so it is a short excursion from squabble to culmination. He has the benefit of a fine, three sided set design by Mario Marcel consisting of the sister’s segment of the apartment on one side, the older brother’s trunk on the other and the poet/novelist’s quarters on a raised platform where he has been kept a bit separate. The final staging effects are something of a mixed bag with video that isn’t quite well established and a red cloth effect that makes a quick impression. 

The new translation equipment which Teatro de la Luna has obtained this season provides what the theater refers to as something akin to “live dubbing” in clean, clear sound. The cast in the booth reading off the English script but timing their delivery to the pace of the action on stage do a fine job. The combination of well directed, clearly enunciating translators and quality audio equipment makes it possible to keep the audio level low enough to catch the rhythm and tone of the actors on stage making the experience quite satisfying for those who aren’t fluent enough in Spanish to follow it in its native language.

Written by Alberto Pedro Torriente. Directed by Harold Ruíz. Design: Mario Marcel (set) Mike Daniels (lights) Daniel Cima (photography) Mario Panameño (sound and stage manager).  Cast: Peter Pereyra, Harold Ruíz, Leslie Yáñez. English translation cast: Marcela Ferlito, Anthony Gallagher, Ed Johnson.

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February 6 – March 16, 2001
5th International Festival of Hispanic Theater

Teatro De la Luna again brings shows from theaters in a number of Hispanic countries to the Potomac Region in a festival supported by Federal, District of Columbia and Virginia agencies as well as local corporate and philanthropic groups. From February 8 through March 16 seven plays will appear in the new black-box "Theatre On The Run" that the County of Arlington operates on South Four Mile Run Drive, while a café-concert will be offered at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington along with a number of children's shows.

The first full production is from Puerto Rico’s Artefacto Inc. Theater Company.  They presented a new play by its founder and artistic director Orlando Rodrigquez, Otro Maldito Amor (Another Damn Love).

The two-act, three person comedy (running time 2 hours 25 minutes) featured the author as a man who’s marriage collapsed under the dual pressures of his homosexuality and his wife’s religious extremism which may or may not have been her reaction to his predilection. Marieli Durán plays the wife who speaks directly to God at times of stress. Lucy Ann Ramos gives a very high-energy comic performance as a woman the man meets at a movie who becomes a friend. She is trapped in an unsatisfying marriage herself and compensates by striking up cyber-sex relationships in chat rooms while her husband snores away in the next room.

As is the case with all seven plays, this comedy is performed in Spanish with simultaneous English translations available on easily operated earphones. If you use the translation it requires a level of concentrated listening to follow both the storyline through the earphones and the performances on the stage at the same time, but it is possible to both understand the plot and appreciate the work of the actors. What isn’t possible is to appreciate the author’s dialogue skills as the translations are brief capsule descriptions of each speech or statement.

If you are fluent in Spanish these plays add a great deal to the opportunities to experience quality theater in that language. If you aren’t, the festival still offers a great opportunity to sample the wares of theater companies from Puerto Rico, Mexico, El Salvador, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. The schedule remaining plays in the festival is:

- February 15-16: Mexico’s Moliere, por Ella Misma (Moliere, By Herself)

- February 22 – 23: El Salvador’s El Senor del Ensueno, Hostorias del Imperio Atlante (Lord of Enchantement, stories from Altas’ Reign)

- February 27 – 28: Chile’s La Fiesta de los Locos (The Fools’ Fiesta)

- March 1 – 2: Chile’s El Loco en la Acadmia (The Fool in the Academy)

- March 9 – 9: Uruguay’s El Ejecutor, de noche justo antes de los Bosques (The Executor, at Night in Front of the Forests)

- March 15 – 16: Argentina’s Tango, Ese Loco Espejismo (Tango, That Passionate Feeling)