Friday November 4, 2005 - Thursday November 10, 2005
Justo en lo Mejor de mi Vida ("Just at Life's Best Moment") "I always thought my death would be a tragedy," complains Enzo the bandoneon player, who's understandably distraught to discover his demise playing more like a sitcom. Alicia Muñoz's 80-minute one-act can feel like a TV half-hour stretched to fill, but Teatro de la Luna's production, set to the jaunty-melancholy sounds of tango, has its pleasures. Most come when director/star Mario Marcel isn't busy overplaying the comedy: Peter Pereyra's otherworld-weary Piguyi, back from the beyond to ease Enzo into the afterlife, has an intriguing stillness about him, and there's even a piquancy to Marcel's disenchanted dreamer as he wonders how he went from romantic youth to bitter middle-aged man without ever meaning to surrender. Self-conscious performances and dubious design mean some moments could be rawer and others could be funnier, but Muñoz understands how self-doubt can make a man mean even to the ones he loves--and how to keep her cautionary comedy on the safe side of maudlin.
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Thurs., Oct. 27, 2005 - - 6:00 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 29, 2005 - - 10:30 a.m.
Mon., Oct. 31, 2005 - - 8:30 p.m.
It’s been a fast 15 years since Teatro de la Luna has been bringing
audiences the best of Latin American plays. Many are poignant and
most are comedies. This season kicked off with a wonderfully funny
Argentinean play by Alicia Munoz called, “Justo en lo Mejor de mi
Vida” or “Just at Life’s Best Moment.” The play focuses on Enzo. He
has just died and meets his musician friend, Piguyi, in Enzo’s home.
Teatro’s artistic director, Mario Marcel, plays the husband and
father, Enzo, and Teatro regular, Peter Pereyra is Piguyi. In this
message play, we soon find out that what you think is real isn’t
always so. Such as when one mistakenly believes his relationship
with wife and family are just fine. Joining the laugh-out-loud duo
of Marcel and Pereyra are Marycarmen Wila as Enzo’s wife, Monalisa
Arias as the daughter and Arturo Martinez as Enzo’s brother. This
play makes you wonder if you’re in sync with the real feelings going
on in your relationships. By the way, I’m told the humor and
language used are typical only to Argentina. In fact, the audience
is given a long list of slang used in the show. Luckily, there are
also English translations so we don’t miss anything. Great theatre!
Don’t miss this one! At Gunston Arts Center Theatre through Nov. 12.
CleverScript, Solid Acting Fuel Teatro's Season Opener
by MATT REVILLE (Staff Writer)
A drizzly, slightly chilly Saturday afternoon is as good a time
as any to ponder life’s big questions. And few come bigger than: “What will they
say about me when I’m gone?”
Pity poor Enzo. In Argentinean playwright Alicia Munoz’s dark
comedy “Justo en lo Mejor de mi Vida” [“Just at Life’s Best Moment”], the fifty
something Buenos Aires musician gets to stick around a while after his wife and
daughter discover him dead in bed of a heart attack. What they have to say in
assessing his life is sometimes petty, sometimes profound – but not quite as
complimentary as the decedent may have wished.
Teatro de la Luna has picked the show as the opening production of its 15th
season, and it is a good choice. Solid acting, a light touch from the director
and a witty script combine for laughs and poignancy in rapid succession.
Life used to be better for Enzo, who once could afford trips to Disneyland for
the family, but the downturn in the South American economy has led to a
shortfall in his bank account and his resulting grim mood. Finally, following an
argument with his wife after his request for Monday-night conjugal relations is
rebuffed, Enzo dies in his sleep.
Only, it takes Enzo a while to figure this all out, since he is up and walking
around (although the family members pay no notice)
He is aided in the transition to the next life by his musical buddy Piguyi, who
drops by for a visit after a 10-year absence, looking nearly the same as he did
a decade before (if you’re sharper on the uptake than Enzo, you’ll quickly
Meanwhile, daughter Yanina is a bit hysterical, wife Verónica is less distraught
than you might imagine, and brother Lucho has dropped by to sort the mess out.
As is my wont, I’ll go no further except to say: mayhem ensues.
Turns out there were a few secrets the family was keeping from crabby Enzo, and
some pent-up emotions, too. They all come spilling out, with the Enzo and Piguyi
looking on, able to communicate only between themselves.
Done in a single act that runs about 90 minutes, this production hits its marks
and then skedaddles before wearing out its welcome. Credit Munoz the playwright,
J. Paul Lennon (who did the translation) and director Mario Marcel for tip-top
Marcel also stars as Enzo, and his evolving reactions as all the secrets spill
out are at times priceless. He is the glue holding the production together, and
it’s a good grip he has.
Monalisa Arias and Marycarmen Wila, as Enzo’s daughter and wife, respectively,
offer up strong and realistic performances. Arturo Martínez is sufficiently
skanky (I mean that as a compliment) in his portrayal of Enzo’s brother, who
himself reveals a few secrets as we go along.
Peter Pereyra, who has been on stage a lot in Arlington, both with this troupe
and with Washington Shakespeare Company, is sufficiently otherworldly in his
portrayal of Piguyi, trying to explain it all to his recently departed bandmate.
Marcel’s direction is adept; he is working with a single set on the intimate
Gunston II stage, which is just about the right size for this show.
All the technical aspects of the show were fine.
Although the somewhat wistful and upbeat ending will leave a few cranks
disappointed, following as it does modest levels of venom that were spewed
during the show, it struck me as effective and a good way to send the audience
out into the dark night (or rainy afternoon, as the case may be).
A good start to the new season.
Thursday, November 3, 2005; Page C05
by Celia Wren
'Lo Mejor de Mi Vida': A Deadly Dull Afterlife
Here's some advice: If you wake up someday and find you're dead, don't hang around the house, eavesdropping on your loved ones. If you do, you might make some mortifying discoveries.
Enzo is the Buenos Aires musician who finds himself watching his family's unflattering reactions to his demise in "Justo en lo Mejor de Mi Vida" ("Just at Life's Best Moment"), a yawn of a play that has been a hit in Argentina, and which Teatro de la Luna is staging in the original Spanish, with English surtitles. Written by Argentine playwright Alicia Muñoz, "Justo en lo Mejor de mi Vida" conjures up a few poignant hours in the existence of Enzo, the hero who is a fifty-something player of the bandoneon (an accordion-like instrument used in tango music).
A panicked confession by Enzo's daughter, Yanina; his wife Veronica's weepy reminiscence of romance and disillusionment; the pent-up resentment of his brother Lucho -- as the play weaves together these fragments of mild melodrama, it muses on the bittersweet nature of domestic life. Gentle humor crops up here and there, sometimes through the quips of Enzo's mysterious friend Piguyi, a font of knowledge about the supernatural.
"I thought there'd be no bureaucracy on the other side," Enzo complains at one point, on hearing that the afterlife boasts a customs department.
"And where do you think bureaucrats go?" Piguyi rejoins sarcastically.
Such witticisms notwithstanding, the unsophisticated plotting and dawdling pace of "Justo en lo Mejor de Mi Vida" can become a little dull (although the play has chalked up more than 500 performances in Argentina, according to publicity materials). Teatro de la Luna has put together an attractive production of the piece, though. Director Mario Marcel shoulders the role of Enzo, emphasizing the character's clownish impatience as well as his tenderness. You can sense a father's affection when he looks at Yanina, who like the other family members is unable to see or hear her ghostly dad (in one sweet, melancholy moment, Enzo allows himself to caress her ponytail while she sits, brooding on her problems).
As the feisty but vulnerable Yanina, bounding about the house in pajamas or a track suit (costumes are by Nucky Walder), Monalisa Arias brims with a tomboyish energy, but she also can shift ably into pensiveness. Marycarmen Wila makes a quietly funny and wistful Veronica, puttering around in her dressing gown, and Arturo Martinez is a sturdy presence as Lucho. Cutting the most dashing profile is Peter Pereyra as Piguyi, who glides onstage in a three-piece suit with a carnation in the lapel and a cigarette dangling from his lips, looking like a glamorous silent-movie figure.
His Rudolph Valentino pizazz contrasts effectively with the plebeian furnishings of Enzo's home: a tiny kitchen flanked by rooms cluttered with shelves, plants, knickknacks, an ironing board, a birdcage and so on (Marcel also designed the set). Ayun Fedorcha's expressive lighting infuses this picture with a cozy warmth or welcome dose of spookiness. And lighting and set contribute to a low-key coup de théâtre that is perhaps the highlight of the production. As one could almost imagine Piguyi reminding us: You should keep your guard up as you tango into the Great Beyond.
Justo en lo Mejor de Mi Vida (Just at Life's Best Moment), by Alicia Mu?oz. In Spanish with English surtitles (English translation by J. Paul Lennon). Direction and set design by Mario Marcel. About 90 minutes.
Imagine that, when your time on this crazy planet runs out, you get a few additional minutes to hang around the house and observe what your family really thinks about you. That’s the premise of Argentinian playwright Alicia Munoz’ domestic comedy Just at Life’s Best Moment (Justo en lo Mejor de mi Vida), which is being given its U.S. premiere by Arlington-based Teatro de la Luna at the Gunston Arts Center. In Spanish with English surtitles, Just at Life’s Best Moment covers ground familiar to English-speaking audiences (think A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life), but with a snappy Latin ﬂavor. The big difference here is that the main character really is dead, although he doesn’t know it for awhile. By hanging around beyond his scheduled departure into the other world, the grumpy if lovable Enzo gets a glimpse both of his own shortcomings and of his family’s real affection for him (despite their many complaints). Just at Life’s Best Moment is the kind of spunky, funny, and ultimately touching comedy that should please just about everyone.
Teatro de la Luna co-founder Mario Marcel plays the cantankerous Enzo, an aging bandoneon (accordion) player in a Tango orchestra whose best days are some years behind. He’s visited by his long-lost musician friend Piguyi (Peter Pereyra), whose slick-backed hair and formal attire suggest a level of success Enzo never knew. However, in time we come to realize that Piguyi is, if not the angel of death, at least the escort into another world. Conﬂict arises when Enzo stalls Piguyi long enough to watch Enzo’s family prepare for his funeral (it’s going to be a cheap one) and to overhear their unﬂattering recollections of him. (We learn he’s a curmudgeonly, self-absorbed sort—kind of a Latin Archie Bunker—whose only care is his bandoneon.) Thrown in are a couple of revelations about wife Veronica’s possible inﬁdelity and daughter Yanina’s liason with an undesirable boyfriend, which really stir the dead man’s ire. Much of the play’s humor derives from Enzo’s surprise at hearing these revelations—he couldn’t imagine he was a difﬁcult man to live with—and his attempts to defend himself in front of Piguyi and the oblivious family members. At one point, Enzo begs Piguyi to let him rise out of his cofﬁn and exact revenge on the family. While that never happens, Enzo does brieﬂy break into their world, throwing events into a momentary havoc. In the end, the grumpy musician recognizes that much of the family discontent was the aftereffect of his own disillusionment with life. (“I always thought happiness was further ahead,” he tells Piguyi.) When it becomes clear that his family really loved him despite some of the things they say, Enzo is ﬁnally able to accept Piguyi’s invitation to another, more peaceful and less care-ridden world.
Director and star Marcel and his talented cast keep the action brisk and the touch light. Comic exchanges between the goateed Marcel and the dapper dressed Pereyra are the fulcrum around which the other characters pivot. Each of the secondary roles is played with a distinctive strength and style—Marycarmen Wila’s Veronica, Arturo Martinez’ Lucho, and especially, Monalisa Arias’ Yanina. Yanina’s vulnerability—wanting to hate her father for his boorishness and yet deeply feeling his sudden absence—is particularly moving. Special credit goes to Marcel for a simple, yet realistic and very functional set design of kitchen and parlor. The LED screen for English translation is ﬁxed in front of center stage, and best seen from the back rows of audience seating.
Just at Life’s Best Moment is a funny and thoughtful meditation on the importance of the everyday—those mundane exchanges that make up the bulk of our lives. Take a lesson from Enzo and don’t wait too late to see it.