Romina and the Circus Bellini
Teatro De La Luna - Bring Back the Clowns
November 14th 2006
Everyone loves a clown who makes us laugh. But some clowns move
us to tears. This third in a series of Hispanic plays, Romina and the Circus
Bellini from the Bojiganga Theater Company in Mexico, may not represent the
grand scale of the Cirque du Soleil or Barnum & Bailey’s The Greatest Show on
Earth, but this one-act puts us through an intense catharsis.
Once again Teatro De La Luna brings experimental theater to the
Gunston Arts Center and only the best performers from Latin America. Veronica
Albarran, as Romina, and Nora Lamadrid, as Chanfaya, give mesmerizing virtuoso
performances. Both characters have sad-happy tales to tell.
Red-wigged Chanfaya, costumed in plaid skirt, sequined red jacket,
and wearing striped socks looks like the traditional clown. But Romina, the
narrator who does most of the talking, complains how rain is ruining their act.
In Mexico, rains are supposed to end in August. The circus isn’t what it used to
In the program, the footnote, "Loosely based on a story fragment
by Anton Chekhov," seems too significant to ignore. What is not widely known is
that Chekhov, one of the collaborators with the Moscow Arts Theater in the early
1900s, loved the circus. The Russian playwright drew upon the circus in his
short stories. His stage characters represented real life and real people to
make fun of life’s contradictions. One slip or stumble of the foot and happiness
is destroyed. Similarly, Mexican playwright Alejandro Velis portrays real people
behind the clown or acrobat to show life as it is.
In Romina and the Circus Bellini, the play itself is a
contradiction. Romina, dressed in black tux, tells us the cabaret theater is
frivolous by comparison to the circus, because there is no risk. Yet, in this
show the performers break the proscenium and interact with the audience in
Similar to Chekhov, there’s an intense nostalgia for the grace
and style of the past. This memory play takes us back to an era before
television when live performance was important. Romina tells us the music used
to be live. Now the music is downsized to recordings. And the piped in rendition
of "Don’t Rain on My Parade" is in English, not Spanish.
In another moment, however, less is more. When Romina slinks and
pulls a cigarette lighter out of her bra in a spoof of a torch singer, much is
made with one prop. The cigarette holder becomes a clarinet or drum stick.
Throughout, we are thrust into Romina’s memory of her dead
husband/lover, Lucus Bellini, founder of the circus, who learned discipline from
the Russians, creators of The Moscow Circus, "the best in the world." Bellini so
loved the circus that even when offered one million dollars to break up their
act, he refused the offer. It must be the circus is more than mindless spectacle.
The circus means passion, imagination and risk. But the audiences aren’t coming
anymore. Now, even though Bellini pays high cost liability insurance, people
prefer to stay home and watch television.
Romina comes to hate the public for their apathy. "I considered
the stage sacred," she tells us. Think of the lives of those who start preparing
at birth for their five minutes in the spotlight. Think of the great effort that
goes into creating the art of the circus. And think of the broken hearts of
backstage love affairs that cost Bellini hospital insurance for heart attacks.
The circus makes the grotesque and bizarre relevant. Romina
pantomimes how the biggest baby in the world now weighs in at 700 pounds as the
fattest woman in the world. Chanfaya, in ballerina costume, and Romina, with
umbrella, pantomime the high wire balancing act to remind us of death-defying
Because the performer’s greatest reward is applause from the
crowd, Romina becomes the psychic while Chanfeya, dressed as the fortune teller,
works us up into cheers. Romina turns her back to the audience. And surprise.
Chanfeya walks up to me sitting in the front row and touches my glasses. Romina,
her back to me and the audience, guesses that my glasses are being touched. The
great Romina even guesses the number of hairs on a head of hair. How can you
check out her accuracy? You get the idea. The audience loves direct contact.
But the harsh reality is that Romina had to break with her family
to run away with the circus to tour Mexico and South America. So the circus
performers become her family and her life becomes life on the road.
When Lucus dies in car accident, Romina falls into deep despair
and can’t go on. She scolds the playwright for allowing Bellini to die. It
carries a deeper meaning as if she’s asking about loss: Why are people we love
allowed to die? Why is our loved one gone? Why did this happen? Without the
inspiration of Bellini, Romina sells the circus. But Romina and Chanfaya remain
a part of the circus by acting out this tribute to Bellini. Now only memory
keeps the circus alive.
The image of a small covered wagon pulled across the stage at the
end suggests that the circus moves on into other theatrical forms. Or that
pioneers take risks. But the circus used to come to town in big red wagons or
trains. And the references to television media suggest the present day. For me,
a 19th century wagon comes to mind and doesn’t work as a symbol
without more context.
What worked were the emotionally moving performances from
Veronica Albarran. Her emotional agony at the loss of the Bellini Circus and
Nora Lamadrid’s charm as the psychic’s partner earned the standing ovation at
Romina and the Circus Bellini (Romina Y El Bellini),
by Alejandro Velis, continues this weekend at the Gunston Arts Center, Theatre
Two, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington, VA, Thurs. 11/16, Fri. 11/17, 8 p.m.; Sat.
11/18, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets: Thurs. and Sat. matinee, $25.
Evening performances, $30. $5 off for seniors and students. 10% discount for 10
or more. Live English dubbing through easy-to-use headsets. Free parking
available. Friday, post-show discussion.
reviews of the performing and visual arts from the DC and Baltimore area
plus contributions from around the country and the world!
Graciela Rodriguez (Teatro/Luna)
her second show, Graciela Rodriguez proves her tremedous comedic talent
in "On the Loose, Hot and Dangerous" as she deftly runs through many
characters...female and male...as she tries to solve societal and media
problems. She is a combination of Lucille Ball and Imogene Coca as she
uses riveting speeches accompanied by most humorous body language to
keep the audience in stitches and adulation. The production gets
started as she encourages the audience to use aloe vera and forces
testimonials from them. The funniest skit has her near lap-dancing with
males in the audience as a sexpot. In this production she has a comic
foil with Fernando Larrosa who is cross-dressed in white pleats and who
charmingly and confidentially introduces Ms. Rodriguez's characters.
Mr. Larrosa is particularly riotous when he must play a pregnant wife on
a tv show who must tell her husband that the child is not his. Yes,
this is great comedy! (Reviewed by Bob Anthony)
October 30th 2006
(Suelta, Ardiente y Peligrosa,)
revue in a style that has Uruguay an identity.
The spirit of fierce
resistance to domination comes through. What better way to express
individuality than Cabaret Theater or what is hailed at Teatro De La
Luna’s Celebration of Hispanic Theater as Uruguayan cabaret.
On the Loose, Hot and
Dangerous (Suelta, Ardiente Y Peligrosa), written and directed by Omar
Varela, at the Gunston Arts Center is a wild farce. Wildly creative
because of its audience interaction, it’s pure improvisation with a
script of prepared questions. Each performance is different with
different audiences. But the topical satire is somewhat similar to
what’s seen at Chicago’s Second City. The Gunston stage is adapted to
suggest a night club with a front row of tables and chairs to invite us
into the act.
Once again as with
How To Fill A Wild Bikini, the first in this festival, Graciela
Rodriguez proves herself to be an amazing character actress/comedian.
Cabaret theater turns the world upside down without firing a shot. A
free society resists tyranny without a violent revolution. Café style
theater is like saying the Mass backwards to make fun of anything
sacred. And it’s fun.
As we walk into the
theater, we are advised to wear our earphones so we can immediately hear
the simultaneous translation. Rodriguez, in bright red haired wig, is
the lecturer, who worships Aloe Vera, the show’s sponsor for a talk-tv
show. To be in the moment is important. Last Friday night, it rains. So
Rodriguez uses the rain as an excuse for the late arrivers and asks all
of us, to join in singing a "hymn for Aloe Vera, for a better life."
Through hard work and abandonment of her husband, child and "my church,"
our hostess tells us she has sold enough of this product to win travel
tickets and a free set of china. Then she interviews several women in
the audience, asking them how they can use Aloe Vera. Shampoo and hand
cream are suggested.
Larrosa, the straight man, in white dress and pig tails, to warn us of the
craziness to follow. Each time Rodriguez exits, she quick changes into a
different costume or wig, re-enters with a different walk and voice.
This actress is so versatile, each entrance seems like a new actor walks
on stage. The suspense builds: Who’s next? The eccentric, old woman,
Marta, in a fur coat, who crawls over audience members and interacts,
especially with younger men, is memorable. She never finds a seat but
Marta advises the men to take Aloe Vera instead of vinegar, that is,
Viagra. Then there’s the faith healer on a mission who shares her
But when Rodriguez
becomes a male character, we ask: what will he do? The waiter in black
bow tie and suit, black wig on the make, mixes in some bawdy humor,
played against Fernando’s innocent young virgin character. Both are
stereotypes presented in good taste.
No one is spared
ridicule. The patter flows so fast even the translator can’t keep up,
Rodriguez jokes. Granted there may be confusing moments, character names
not made clear through translation and special insider jokes only
Uruguayans understand. But some characters are universal, such as the
opinionated, old battle ax or the egocentric television personalities,
who try to resolve unhappy love lives. And topics on political
leadership can cross the cultural divide: "Put the president in a plane
and say bye-bye." Does she mean the president of Uruguay or our own?
Well, we don’t need to make that clear. With Rodriguez, a costume change
is worth a thousand names.
One of the high
points takes place when the game show host, Rodriguez in a platinum
blond wig, picks contestants randomly to play charades.
But there’s a
wonderful punch line to the entire charade. When the actor Fernando,
who’s as energetic as Rodriguez, becomes Tito, there is an ironic twist
at the end.
about this one act? Previous performing artists from Uruguay, who have
appeared at Teatro De La Luna’s International Festivals, brought us the
serious side of theater from Uruguay. A country caught between Argentina
and Brazil, Uruguay has a history of struggle for independence.
In the past, one act
plays and monologues pit the prisoner against authority (2003, The
Informant); or the jobless, young man, struggling to find meaning in a
repressive society (The Executor, At Night in Front of the Forests
2002), or a woman is unjustly imprisoned because of circumstantial
evidence (Women in the Closet, 2001). But more recently, with the
arrival of Uruguayan cabaret, we are exposed to a Latin American country
that enjoys relative freedom to express controversial themes on stage.
Another way to resist tyranny without a violent revolution.
On the Loose, Hot and
Dangerous (Suelta, Ardiente Y Peligrosa) continues this weekend at the
Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington, VA, Thurs.
11/2, Fri. 11/3, 8 p.m.; Sat. 11/4, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets: Thurs.
and Sat. matinee, $25. Evening performances, $30. $5 off for seniors and
students. 10% discount for 10 or more. Live English dubbing through easy-to-use
headsets. Free parking available. Friday, post-show discussion.
How To Fill a Wild Bikini
"How Do We Fit
Into This Crazy World?"
by Rosalind Lacy
Teatro De La Luna’s new season has a name with new in it: "Catch the New Moon" (Abrazando a la Nueva Luna), artistic director, Mario Marcel, tells the audience up front before How To Fill a Wild Bikini begins.
With a play entitled How To Fill a Wild Bikini, I confess I sat down expecting a bedroom farce. But I came away emotionally moved by something far more profound, thanks to a wonderful actress from Uruguay– Graciela Rodriguez.
Miguel Falabella is a Brazilian playwright who has an avid following in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking theater world of Latin America. Translated into Spanish and directed by Omar Varela, I believe this play is a contemporary descendent of the Italian commedia del’arte, a 16th century performing art that made fun of the arrogance of the upper classes. There’s a reference to an imaginary king in Rodriguez’ opening monologue. But instead of dragging us through the gutter or spewing us with profanity, which sadly some of our new playwrights do, Falabella, the Brazilian playwright, gives us familiar people. At one point, I whispered to my husband: "That’s us!"
Society is like a web. So why not let one actress show us how silly we are in trying to fit into today’s world. Trying to conform is like trying to fill a wild bikini.
At first, it is as if we’re about to witness a Greek tragedy. Or one of Brecht’s soliloquies where the actor breaks the illusion and speaks directly to the audience. From the moment of Graciela Rodriguez’ entrance in red silk cape, tight cap, her big eyes devour us as if she’s starving or tortured after an inquisition. We just know this theater experience is going to be different as she looks into our eyes and cries out: "There’s no pain, I’ve not felt. No humiliation I’ve not experienced. No greater disgrace than the disgrace of my existence. Where can I live with dignity? Where is my dignity?"
Then as if to unnerve us further, Rodriguez tells us she’s forgotten her lines and she offers to give audience members back their money.
The use of the Gunston proscenium arch stage is interesting. The wings and the off stage areas are exposed to create a larger playing area. But a multi-piece orchestra isn’t needed. Dazzling stage sets or blinding strobe lights aren’t necessary. All you need is Rodriguez in this black box of infinite space. She crowds the playing area with multiple characters and dramatic situations that build and spin out of control into manic comedy. All the world’s a stage. First, Rodriquez is whiney-voiced Mabel, who stays at home with a big cream-colored car in her garage, and goes nowhere, while her sister, Magdalena travels the world. Then the fun really begins as the actress keeps adding characters: One of funniest sequences takes place when Graciela becomes schizophrenic. That is, the Inner Mabel tries to tell the Outer Mabel what to do.
But Mabel’s psychoanalyst can’t solve her own problems, let alone her patients’ problems. We meet a can-can dancer from a nightclub, and a telephone operator, who connects us to the weight-lifter, Mike. Then, add in the psychoanalyst’s daughter, Maria, who prefers her mother’s maid to her career woman mother. "I don’t give a damn about your psychological techniques, your long earrings…..your haughty face…..My mother is the maid who nursed me." So much for generational conflict.
For the ease with which Rodriguez quick-changes into all these multiple-personas, with a change of voice, gesture, or body position, it is understandable why this actress has been honored in Uruguay with numerous awards for her television, radio and theater performances. She’s not well known in the United States. But already she’s won a best acting award in Miami.
Based on this one-woman show, Graciela Rodriguez, for her range of character acting, split-second, fluid transitions, a grace on stage as smooth as the silk of her red cape, deserves more awards for showing us the manic waste of energy of her characters’ lifestyle.
The only flaw I could see in this one-act was that the script could go further in connecting this menagerie of personas to all of humanity. I wanted to see even more. During the richly deserved standing ovation, I wanted to cry out more, more, bring out more characters.
Listening for English translation through headsets is worth the effort with simultaneous translator: Marcella Ferlito. As we adjusted our earphones, Ferlito explained that she has a written script in the booth, but the actress improvises. That makes translating the meaning behind the spontaneity doubly difficult. But I didn’t feel I missed a beat of the rapid flow of Spanish.
By the way, most everyone in the audience was Spanish speaking, it seemed. But for English-only speakers, like me, trust Marcella’s voice in your ear. What happens on stage transcends the language barrier. The artistic director says Teatro De La Luna’s mission is to keep bringing in new plays from contemporary Latin American playwrights, new performers, new ideas.
I came away with more. I came away exhilarated with a renewal of faith in the power of humanity. I felt I had to see this play again to catch more of its depth. It’s playing again for only one more weekend. That’s the pain I felt as I left the theater.
The run for How To Fill A Wild Bikini ends next week,at the Gunston Arts Center-Theatre Two, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington, VA, Thurs., Fri., Sat. 8 p.m., Sat. matinee 3 p.m., October 19-21. Tickets: Thurs. and Sat. matinee, $25. Evening performances, $30. $5 off for seniors and students. 10% discount for 10 or more. Live English dubbing through easy-to-use headsets. Plenty of free parking. Friday, post-show discussion.
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
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
Comedy Flows in One-Woman Show
by MATT REVILLE (Staff Writer)
Who knew that the South
American nation of Uruguay had a National Comedy School?
I do now, having sat through
“How to Fill a Wild Bikini” [“Como Rellenar un Bikini Salvaje”], the opening
production in a three-play series put on by Teatro de la Luna in its Celebration
of Hispanic Theatre. The production opens the company's 16th season.
Written by Brazilian Miguel
Falabella, it has been performed over the past decade by Uruguyan television
personality (and comedy-school graduate) Graciela Rodríguez, back in the U.S.
for a return engagement, having performed at Teatro de la Luna earlier in the
It's a welcome return, as this
one-act, one-woman, multi-character comedy is a true delight, whether one
listens in Spanish or through dubbed English.
While the name of the play
sounds a little titillating - sorry, I couldn't resist - it's purposely vague.
In fact, the production starts out as a Greek tragedy. Then the fun begins.
Soon, Rodríguez is performing
as a host of connected characters, including a neurotic patient named Mabel and
her psychoanalyst (who has problems of her own). Husbands, children, the maid, a
suicide-hotline operator . . . new characters are introduced throughout the
show, which runs at a break-neck pace.
Regular readers know I'm not a
fan of one-performer shows, having been subjected as a child to Laurence
Luckinbill as LBJ in a show charitably described as ponderous. But that was then
and this is now, and Rodríguez spices up the show with plenty of fast-paced
comedy, some of it quite risqué and therefore suited for ages 15 through adult.
It all takes about an hour and 20 minutes.
The show was directed by Omar
Varela; the collaboration between performer and director seems to have worked
well. The music (Estela Magnone and Alexis Buensenor) was effective. There was a
Spartan set and Rodríguez performed in a single, multi-purpose costume (Nelson
The theater company has
reverted to simultaneous translation for this show, with those of us more
comfortable in English wearing headphones (rather than watching supertitles used
in most recent Teatro de la Luna productions). Marcela Ferlito, who did the
simultaneous translation on Saturday afternoon, was a hoot with the dialects,
adding to the overall flavor of the show.
liked the performance enough
that I'll be back in two weekends to see the opening of “On the Loose, Hot and
Dangerous” [“Suelta, Ardiente y Peligrosa”], which also stars Rodríguez, this
time paired with Fernando Larrosa. The final show in the series is “Romina and
the Circus Bellini” [“Romina y El Bellini”], performed by the Bojiganga Theater
Company of Mexico.
All performances are
at Gunston Arts Center Theatre II, 2700 South Lang St. in Arlington. For a
complete schedule and ticket information, call (703) 548-3092 or see the Web
site at www.teatrodelaluna.org.
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, October 19, 2006; Page C05
by Celia Wren
Rodríguez Stuffs a Lot in 'How to Fill a Wild Bikini'
rhapsody in fire-engine red: an elfin figure in a red jumpsuit, red
shoes and a red turban, as well as a red cape that, in her stretched-out
hands, resembles wings. Stalking across a stark black set in the opening
moments of "How to Fill a Wild Bikini," Uruguayan actress Graciela
looks like some flamboyant sorcerer casting a spell.
It's an image of solemn theatricality, but don't be fooled: Brazilian
playwright Miguel Falabella has a trick up his sleeve in this clever if
not terribly memorable one-woman comedy, now making its U.S. premiere in
a Spanish-language staging hosted by Teatro de la Luna.
The woman in red intones a few lines from an adaptation of "Antigone"
and then, faster than you can say Pirandello, the fourth wall shatters.
Dropping the cape on the floor -- near the bench that is the set's only
furniture -- the actress announces that her nerves prevent her from
going through with the performance. Evidently, she suffers from stage
fright so excruciating that she's obliged to make up stories about
audience members to distract herself.
With that admission, the play taxis back down the runway and takes off.
Ostensibly impersonating the products of her own yarn-spinning, the
actress introduces a panoply of oddball contemporary individuals who are
linked either by relationships or by chance conversations. Dominating
these rather cartoonish characters is the whiny Mabel -- a housewife so
irrationally petulant that even her officious psychoanalyst hangs up on
her. The psychoanalyst, the psychoanalyst's self-destructive daughter, a
sanctimonious hotline staffer at the Center for the Understanding of
Anonymous Suicidals, an egocentric would-be actress named Vanessa who
seems to be the Uruguayan equivalent of a Valley Girl -- these folks
form a chain of interdependency that gradually distills into a narrative
about loneliness and human bonding.
"We're all connected by an invisible thread, which forms a huge spider
web that is the world," the neurotic-actress character points out, in a
remark that sums up the play's vision.
It's not exactly a novel insight, but on the plus side, the multiple-personality
format creates a terrific showcase for Rodríguez's mordant caricatures.
Under the lucid direction of Omar Varela, the actress submerges herself
in one eccentric after another: endowing Mabel with a braying voice and
pathetic head tic; reproducing the slow waddle of an illiterate maid;
high-kicking her way through Vanessa's aerobics routine.
Unfortunately, audiences tuning in to the simultaneous English-translation
on headset will find it hard to follow all the madcap twists of these
impersonations, as the translator's voice tends to drown out the
performer's. Still, it's a zesty and admirably detailed turn that
attests to Rodríguez's artistry -- Teatro de la Luna press materials dub
her "Uruguay's #1 comedienne" -- especially for those who missed her in
"I Might Not Be Happy, but at Least I'm Married" at the theater this
(Rodríguez returns next Thursday in Varela's comic two-hander "On the
Loose, Hot and Dangerous," also part of Teatro de la Luna's Celebration
of Hispanic Theater. And November will bring the festival's third
installment, "Romina and the Circus Bellini.")
As for the current production, fans of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit
issue should be warned:
Falabella's slyly titled show has nothing to do with bikinis.
Como Rellenar un Bikini Salvaje (How to Fill a Wild Bikini), by Miguel
Falabella. Directed by Omar Varela; music, Estela Magnone and Alexis
Buenseñor; costumes, Nelson Mancebo. In Spanish, with English
translation via headset by Omar Varela and A. Caballero. About 70
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, October 19, 2006; Page VA07
by Michael J. Toscano
Las Comedias Lead Off For Teatro de la Luna
"Wild Bikini" Stars Popular Uruguayan Actress
Teatro de la Luna, Arlington's Spanish-language theater
company, is launching its 16th season with a three-play series called "A
Celebration of Hispanic Theater."
The first installment, now onstage at the Gunston Arts Center, is a one-woman
comedy by Brazilian playwright Miguel Falabella called "Como Rellenar un
Bikini Salvaje," or "How to Fill a Wild Bikini." The production is from
the visiting Regina Productions of Montevideo, Uruguay, and stars
popular Uruguayan actress and comedienne Graciela Rodríguez. She has
returned to the local theater following her appearance in "I May Not be
Happy, but at Least I'm Married" during this past year's International
Festival of Hispanic Theater.
There are no bikinis in "How to Fill a Wild Bikini," as Rodríguez fills
only a simple, although flamboyantly red jumpsuit during the 80-minute
performance. But the energetic comedienne does try on more than a dozen
personalities as she explores such themes as conflict between parents
and children and the disconnection and loneliness of life in a modern
city. Following a somber opening that has her entering the performance
area from behind the audience, chanting what seems to be a monologue
from ancient Greek tragedy, Rodríguez abruptly switches course and
launches into an earthy stream-of-consciousness look at life today.
While Uruguayan Embassy officials and other members of the local
Uruguayan community on hand opening night laughed heartily at a number
of topical references that passed right over the heads of the rest of us,
most of the characters and territory covered in the show seem familiar
enough. Rodríguez assumes different voices and personas ranging from her
basic character, an everywoman named Mabel, to other people who both
delight and bedevil her, including a daughter who sounds like an
American valley girl -- in Spanish, of course.
Under direction by Uruguayan actor-director-playwright Omar Varela,
Rodríguez is highly animated, moving around and either sitting or
reclining on top of a low bench that is her only prop. The show seems
tailor-made for her talents, and, in fact, she toured in it for about
five years, winning several top Latin American acting awards.
Teatro de la Luna has returned to simultaneous English translation, via
comfortable headsets, for this series, following use of projected
surtitles in a number of recent productions. The live audio translation
is superior, especially as provided here by agile and energetic Marcela
Ferlito Walder, as audience members do not have to take their eyes off
the actors to try to read what they're saying. The audio feed blends
seamlessly into the presentation. Unfortunately, the company will
probably return to surtitles for future plays, finding it generally
easier to program a translation into the projection system instead of
staffing each performance with translators.
"How to Fill a Wild Bikini" continues this weekend, and then Rodríguez
will return with Fernando Larrosa in Regina Productions' "Suelta,
Ardiente y Peligrosa," or "On the Loose, Hot and Dangerous, by Varela,
Oct. 26-Nov. 4. It's another comedy from Uruguay with two actors
portraying a variety of friends and family members in comic social
This show will be followed by Bojiganga Theater Company of Mexico City
and its production of " Romina y el Bellini," or "Romina and the Circus
Bellini," Nov. 9-18. The play, written and directed by Alejandro Velis
and starring Mexico's Verónica Albarrán and Mitzi Elizalde, is a collage
of impressions that show the path of a clown's life in the circus.
"A Celebration of Hispanic Theater," presented by Teatro de la Luna,
continues through Nov. 18, at Gunston Arts Center's Theatre Two, 2700 S.
Lang St., Arlington. Showtime is 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with
matinees at 3 p.m. Saturday. Tickets for Friday and Saturday nights are
$30; $25 for students and seniors over 60; for Thursdays and Saturday
matinees, $25; $20 for students and seniors.