MEMORIA Y... PASIÓN!
WHEN DO YOU pull the plug on life support?
With “La Lechuga” (“The Lettuce”), Venezuelan playwright Cesar Sierra’s provocative dark comedy, Teatro de la Luna tackles this thorny topic head on.
Every year, the adult Martinez children gather half-heartedly to celebrate their elderly father’s birthday. That he is in the next room brain dead and on life support makes little difference really, since they never liked him much anyway.
But this year, the party is different.
Virginia (Nucky Walder) and her husband, Hector (Mario Marcel), who have taken care of the old man for nine years, are marking the occasion with an announcement: They’ve grown weary of being caretakers and think it’s high time to pass the responsibility on to one of Virginia’s younger brothers.
For Victor (Oscar Ceville), it’s out of the question. He and his pregnant wife, Dora (Anabel Marcano), live in an already overcrowded house with their half dozen children.
Vinicio (Peter Pereyra), the gay son, has the room but still he grasps for any reason — the expense, the responsibility of his cat, dog, and goldfish — not to take his father.
As the evening unfolds, it’s clear that the characters have issues in addition to the life-with-father problem.
Victor is miserable in his marriage. Very Catholic Dora is a hypocrite. Armed with phallic balloons, nonstop wit, and a chocolate cake upon his arrival, Vinicio’s over-the-top flamboyancy masks his sadness. And Virginia is generally angry.
IN AN EXCELLENT cast, Mario Marcel is especially good as Virginia’s husband, Hector, the first of the characters to suggest a solution other than keeping the father alive. He delivers a subtle, even-handed performance. His character is neither evil nor saintly.
Nucky Walder exudes Virginia’s pain and frustration.
As Victor, Oscar Ceville perfectly captures the intensity of a pissed-off father with too many children. Marcano gives dimension to Dora, adding layers to the perfect mother image that the character strives to project. And well-built actor Pereyra is quite convincing as Vinicio.
Under the careful direction of Harold Ruiz, the 80-minute play has moments of hysterical pitch, and at other times it slows to a deliberate, thoughtful pace.
It makes sense that Mariano Lucioni’s set for “La Lechuga” looks more like the waiting room in a doctor’s office than Virginia’s living room, because what takes place in that sleek, monochromatic setting is more waiting than anything else.
The playwright Sierra never makes it clear exactly what kind of a father the old man was. He could have been anything from monstrously abusive to a tad bit emotionally unavailable. In doing so, the playwright creates a sort of a vegetative “every dad,” allowing more of the audience to relate to the adult children and their dilemma onstage.
Performed in Spanish with excellent simultaneous translation on headphones, “La Lechuga” is an entertaining and provocative piece. It raises some important questions, and stimulates some good after-theater discussion. Consider taking a sibling.
Performances Fuel Success of Dysfunctional Family's Story
A review of Teatro de la Luna's production of "La Lechuga."
by BRIAN TROMPETER
Many people will have to make a tough choice in their lives: Whether to end the life a terminally ill or vegetative loved one.
It’s a brutal decision with pets and infinitely more so with parents, who, despite all their shortcomings, did after all give us life.
“La Lechuga (The Lettuce),” Teatro de la Luna’s latest production, confronts these issues in all their unsparing bitterness.
The one-act play, written by Cesar Sierra and directed by Harold Ruiz, revolves around an unseen father who was rendered vegetative after an operation’s anesthesia mishap nine years ago. The title reflects the irreverent nickname some family members have bestowed on him.
The play opens with married couple Dora (Anabel Marcano) and Victor (Oscar Ceville) arguing in the living room of Victor’s brother, Hector (Mario Marcel).
Victor is something of a hot-tempered brute and it’s a wonder why Dora, who’s pregnant with their seventh child, puts up with it.
Hector’s wife, Virginia (Nucky Walder), is Victor’s sister. She and Hector have been caring for their father since the accident and are none too pleased to be picking up the tab for everyone else.
Hector sees paying for the hopelessly ill father as squandering assets that could help their adopted son. But Virginia is reluctant to let go and Hector does not pressure her unduly.
Virginia’s other brother, Vinicio (Peter Pereyra), is gay and spices up what otherwise would be a moribund family reunion. He’s a free spirit, wiseacre and bad influence. Vinicio even gets Dora so drunk she accidentally throws up on father.
The play does not explain why the characters all despise each other, but this isn’t necessary. Those who grew up with at least one other sibling know all about the pent-up resentments, years-long estrangements, merciless teasing and gratuitous insults that pass for family interaction.
Dora utters fewer funny lines and has less stage time than Virginia, Vinicio and Hector. But it falls on her, the one carrying on life to its next cycle, to bring the circle to a close.
The stark set by Mario Marcel features white walls, black furniture and modern art. It well symbolizes the cold, either-or decisions that must be made.
There is some profanity and the squabbling occasionally drowns out the translation headsets offered to non-Spanish speakers.
There’s plenty to be admired here, though. This is a thought-provoking play that probably has prompted more than one viewer to draw up “Do Not Resuscitate” papers.
It also drives home the importance of family ties and the need to take care of each other during this short life.
Teatro de la Luna presents “La Lechuga” through Nov. 13 at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St. in Arlington. Show times are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$35. Call (202) 882-6227.
El tiempo Latino
“La Lechuga”, una comedia que llama a la reflexión
Por Milagros Meléndez-Vela
Todos en algún momento vivimos con nuestra propia lechuga —el vegetal, el muerto en vida, la carga— que por más liviana apariencia muestre, recae sobre nosotros con un peso agobiante.
“La Lechuga” del Teatro de La Luna se muestra como tal, y como el punto de partida de una obra que juega con los elementos de comedia para tratar las situaciones “de vida y muerte” y los problemas que conllevan la vejez.
Escrita por la revelación de Venezuela, César Sierra, “La Lechuga” es una pieza “cruda y bien condimentada”, que entre risas y carcajadas llama a la reflexión y da pie a la polémica.
Una familia, tres hermanos y dos concuñados se reúnen en una fecha especial, pero que con los años ha perdido sentido hasta el punto de la hipocrecía.
Víctor Martínez (Oscar Ceville) es el hermano amargado, casado con Dora (Anabel Marcano), quien está embarazada, en espera de su sexto hijo. Vinicio Martínez (Peter Pereyra) es el homosexual, cuya frivolidad y apariencia de diversión cubre las lados oscuros de infelicidad. Virginia Martínez (Nucky Walder) es la hermana mayor, casada con el funcionario Héctor Córdova (Mario Marcel), ambos cargan el peso de ser “los más adinerados” en la familia.
Como todos los años, el encuentro acaba por desencadenar una tempestad de odio, insultos y agresiones, que cada vez se han hecho más profundas con el paso del tiempo.
Pero este año las cosas son diferentes, ¡se pondrá fin a la situación! con un desenlace que arranca risas, llanto y deja un nudo en la garganta, donde es inevitable formularse la pregunta ¿Qué haría yo?. Contar la obra completa quitaría la gracia de ir a verla. Y sí que vale la pena.
Muy bien puesta en escena, bajo la dirección del cubano Harold Ruiz, “La Lechuga” se presenta con una tónica algo distinta que atrae al público desde el momento que se sienta en la butaca.
Los diálogos intencionalmente simples y directos son explotados con limpieza por cada uno de los actores en escena. Claro que por su naturaleza, el personaje de Vinicio Martínez es muy rico para trabajar y el actor Peter Pereyra lo hace con precisión. Más que explotar el personaje de gay, lo exprime al máximo acaparando el protagonismo. Para este personaje Pereyra se rapó el cabello.
Otro miembro de la familia de La Luna que luce diferente es Mario Marcel, quien desempeña el papel de Héctor Córdova. La experiencia de Marcel en los escenarios resulta en una pulcra actuación, como el hombre que cansado de llevar una carga pesada exige una solución.
La actriz Nucky Walder es Virginia Martínez, la esposa de Héctor y hermana mayor de los Martínez. Su papel toma mayor fuerza en las últimas escenas, que dejan en el espectador un nudo en la garganta, que pudiera ser más intenso.
El papel de Dora cae preciso a Anabel Marcano, cuyo trabajo se deja ver en la simpleza y naturalidad con el que desarrolla el rol de la esposa de Víctor Martínez. Marcano pule muy bien el personaje, especialmente en las escenas previas al cierre del telón.
Finalmente, el actor Oscar Ceville hace su debut en los escenarios de La Luna. Su participación, en el rol de Víctor Martínez, es limpia y profesional.
La combinación de un buen reparto y dirección hacen de “La Lechuga” (de La Luna) una pieza jocosa, sana y divertida que nos lleva a través de la comedia a un punto de reflexión sobre los valores y las definiciones de la vida y la muerte.
La obra estará en cartelera hasta el 13 de noviembre en el Guston Arts Center- Theatre Two, 2700 de la calle S. Lang, en Arlington. Las funciones son de jueves a sábado a las 8 p.m. Los sábados también hay matiné a las 3 p.m. Para mayor información llamar al 703-548-3092 ó 202-882-6227.
Washington City Paper:
La Lechuga ("The Lettuce") The dilemma facing the three Martínez siblings in Teatro de la Luna's La Lechuga ("The Lettuce") is one that may face you or me in the not so distant future.
Ministry of Culture official Héctor (Mario Marcel) and his wife, Virginia (Nucky Walder), have invited her brothers, Víctor (Oscar Ceville) and Vinicio (Peter Pereyra) to dinner with an agenda: to get one of them to agree to take their vegetative father, the "lettuce" of the title, to live with him.
Hector has supported his father-in-law for the past nine years, ever since a botched operation left the old man uncommunicative except for the various tubes connecting him to the world.
Now, Héctor and Virginia would like to use the money they've been spending on nursing and oxygen tanks to send their son to private school, and Héctor dreams of a little home office in the room where the supine senior now lies in state.
Naturally, the brothers come up with good reasons why they can't take their father. Víctor has his persnickety wife, Dora (Anabel Marcano) and their six--soon to be seven--children. Vinicio arrives wearing a neckerchief and bearing a Black Forest cake and some penis-shaped balloons, so--you know, the lifestyle.
Through the course of the evening and with the assistance of cocktails and an emergency oxygen-tank run, all five identify many reasons why the others would be ideal caregivers. Playwright César Sierra tries to expose a theme amid the slapstick, that "we all live with something dead," but by that point the froth of the evening has overflowed the cup.
Director Harold Ruíz keeps his targets moving for a frenetic 90 minutes of verbal hot potato. Sierra doesn't really have to offer any insight into the aging-parent dilemma; it's merely comic setup.
But his central observation is one none of us want to acknowledge: we all love our parents dearly, until it's time to change their diapers. (JH) Gunston Arts Center Theater II 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington. Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; matinees Saturdays at 3 p.m. $20-$25 to Nov. 13 (703) 548-3092
Theatro de la Luna opened its season with a solid production of Cesar Sierra's "La Lechuga (The Lettuce)" which tells the tragicomedy tale of three siblings quarreling as to who should take care of the dying, aged father being kept alive with tubular intervention.
Director Harold Ruiz fully understands the closeness of comedy to tragedy and directs accordingly in fine fashion to elicit appropriate reactions from the audience. The playing by this cast follows the intent of the director throughout.
Nucky Walder plays the dedicated wife who needs relief after taking care of the father for nine years. She is marvelous in the role especially when she plate-attacks her pregnant sister-in-law atop the dining table.
Mario Marcel, dedicated to the point that he dyed his hair black for this opus, delightfully fusses and fumes as he alone recognizes the trials and tribulations around this dysfunctional family.
Anabel Marcano finely manages two of the most difficult roles for any actress...to be pregnant and to effect a drunken scene.
Oscar Ceville is quite polished an actor showing a successful range of anger to light heartedness.
Peter Pereyra continues with his fine stage work with the well delivered comedy lines and the greatest sashaying on stage as the effeminate brother.
The play is extremely well structured with fine French scenes with lots of poetic and lyrical passages accompanied by plaintive recorded songs.
Ayun Fedorcha presents some unusual dimming of the lights probably requested by the director to show the stopping of "life force" that can occur to any of us. She also presents a fantasy section in red lights...probably again requested to show the hispanic glorification of the dead...mostly noted in the Halloween period.
But all of these technicals just added to the excitement of the evening. This is a highly recommended show which qualifies for many award nominations for this hispanic group. Even the translators moved into interpretation as they added some exciting histrionics in their reading of the scripts for the users of earphones. (To 11/13)
“Arlington Weekly News” CHANNEL 69
Teatro de la Luna has come up with another winner in “La Lechuga (The Lettuce)”, a dark comedy about an elderly father on life support systems living in the home of his daughter and son-in-law for several years.
We never see him, but we see his two sons and daughter. Victor is married to his once-again pregnant wife, Dora. His flamboyant brother, Vinicio, is single and his sister Virginia is married to Hector who has had it with his comatose father-in-law.
The sons are not interested in taking the father although daughter-in-law Dora is the only one for keeping the father’s lifeless body alive.
Believe me, this is a very funny show in spite of the basically serious subject matter --- which many of us have faced or will face.
Co-founders of Teatro de la Luna, Nucky Walder and Mario Marcel, who are married in real life, play Hector and Virginia with intensity.
Anabel Marcano is a scream as pregnant Dora, while Oscar Ceville play her more serious husband, Victor.
Peter Pereyra is just perfect as brother Vinicio as he flits about proposing ending Papa’s ordeal.
Young Cuban director, Harold Ruiz, keeps the storyline --- and laughs --- moving right along.
And with the help of the provided headset for the English translations, you don’t miss anything. “La Lechuga” is a most enjoyable show, through Nov. 13 at Gunston Arts Center, 2700 S. Lang in Arlington. Call 202-882-6227 for tickets and information.
Three estranged siblings, one vegetative father and a nine-year burden that's tearing a couple apart: Venezuelan playwright Cesar Sierra packs a lot of drama into his 80-minute dark comedy "La Lechuga." Under these stars, emotions could certainly be expected to run high. But in Teatro de la Luna's season-opening production, it's often difficult to tell whether the histrionics onstage are meant to make you laugh or cry.
Every year the Martinez children -- who otherwise don't speak -- gather for their dad's birthday even though he's been brain-dead and hooked to a respirator for nearly a decade (lechuga means lettuce). The "celebrations" are always contentious, but this time there's something extra to fight about: Hector (Mario Marcel) and wife Virginia (Nucky Walder) have been caring for her father since he got sick, but now Hector wants one of Virginia's brothers to relieve them.
When both the flamboyant Vinicio (Peter Pereyra), citing his singleness, and the bitterly married Victor (Oscar Ceville), noting his six kids with another on the way, scoff at the idea, everyone butts heads until a morally questionable decision is made.
Though the wide age range of the actors playing the siblings stretches credibility a bit, Teatro's cast members cut sharp characters in "Lechuga's" two brief acts, especially Marcel's matter-of-fact brother-in-law, Ceville's browbeaten family man and Anabel Marcano's Dora, the pregnant and controlling wife of Victor. Pereyra and Walder are less successful in their roles, but largely because the parts aren't well defined: Vinicio unrealistically vacillates between flippant and a more serious, wounded personality, while Virginia seems meant to be the heart of the play, but more often simply supplies the hysteria.
And hysteria is something director Harold Ruiz amps up in this production, usually to slapstick effect. The characters jump atop tables, flail their arms and try to outyell each other, and though the chaos is at times mildly funny, the gravity of the underlying argument doesn't lend itself to wackiness.
Especially since Sierra's script, while offering the occasional joke ("What if we raffle him?"), more strongly highlights the family's divisiveness: In addition to dredging up old grievances, the characters, if only for the sake of extra conflict, point out a rather unbelievable new one -- that Virginia and Hector's 12-year-old "Chinese midget" son is clearly adopted. Seems like a topic that would have been broached before, and though the detail is minor, it adds to the feeling that much of "Lechuga's" emotion is either forced or misplaced.
Sierra's brisk story also loses momentum under Teatro's dramatic flourishes, including lights that go up and down too frequently -- and arbitrarily -- and odd musical interludes, one of which suggests an unlikely flirtation between Dora and Vinicio. During this short scene, Dora gets drunk and tells her brother-in-law, "I don't know what I'm laughing at, but it's so amusing!" Judging by the audience's uncertain titters during a recent performance, the first half of that line may offer "La Lechuga's" most relatable sentiment.
La Lechuga, by Cesar Sierra. Directed by Harold Ruiz. Set, Mario Marcel; lighting, Ayun Fedorcha; sound, Harold Ruiz; costumes, Nucky Walder. Approximately 80 minutes. Through Nov. 13 at Gunston Arts Center Theater II, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington. Call 703-548-3092 or visit www.teatrodelaluna.org.