Matilde, don't shout!

The Day You'll Love Me

By Jose Ignacio Cabrujas
Translated by Eduardo Machado
Directed by Dana Iris Harrel
Actors of the World
Pulse Theatre
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

When one actress enters, running and screaming, down the aisle, it's theatrical. When three characters in a row do it, it's wearing, not to mention hard on the nerves. The theatrical intensity of the performances made it hard to appreciate the pleasures of Jose Ignacio Cabrujas's The Day You'll Love Me, billed as "a masterpiece of Latin American theatre, a poetic comedy that evokes elements of Chekhov's plays: decadence, ruins, uncertainty, resignation and hope for a better future. The play is light and subtle, without pretensions, and full of humor and delicacy" and produced to apparent acclaim by such respected institutions as Repertorio Espanol and the Mark Taper Forum.

The play takes place in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1935, during the dictatorship of General Gomez. It concerns two sisters, a brother, and their niece (Yasmin Flores as the stern oldest sibling, Elvira Ancízar; Jennifer Dinoia as the romantic María Luisa Ancízar; Rubén Luque as the often-tipsy Plácido Ancízar; and Sarah Matthey as the excitable niece Matilde Ancízar). Marco Aponte played the communist Pío Miranda, who plans to elope with María Luisa - to settle in Stalin's Ukraine, with a letter of introduction from famous French novelist Romain-Rolland. (It turns out that Pío never mailed the letter, a dramatic timebomb that ticks through most of the second act.) The arrival of superstar tango singer Carlos Gardel (the matinee-idol lookalike Nicolas Rossier) turns this dysfunctional bunch upside-down.

Director Dana Iris Harrel undercut meticulous blocking with an excess of Latin expressiveness. The actors were constantly gesticulating and shouting - to the extent that, when someone admonished Matilde not to shout, the remark was anticlimactic.

Luque, as Plácido, offered some subtlety, often masked by bad diction (admittedly it's hard to portray a drunk without slurring words, but the audience have to understand them). Dinoia, as María Luisa, provided almost balletic movement as the shy(er) sister. Aponte's Pío Miranda was full of earnestness and regret. Michal Gizinski, as the singer's manager, gave an incisive portrayal. All these characterizations showed hints of what could have been, but the overall acting style was presentational and sometimes even violent, undercutting the advertised Chekhovian virtues of the play.

The set (Marie-Joëlle Brassard) comprised a few schematic set pieces, notably a table and stools (made from white picket fence material) and a hanging window frame; opening the shutters for the second act revealed red writing on their outsides. Rob Graf's costumes were colorful and suggestive. The uncredited lights, harsh and unmasked, were bright enough for the audience to read a newspaper by.

 Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 2001 John Chatterton