AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Rogelio Martinez
Directed by Amy Glazer
Presented by Marin Theatre Company
Marin Theatre Company

397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, CA / Phone (415) 388-5208

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Rogelio Martinez is a promising young playwright, as evidenced by the world premiere of his "Displaced" at Marin Theatre Company. Born in Cuba, Martinez came to the United States when he was 9 years old. He hasn't been back since, but "every time I write a play about Cuba, I go there, but my trip is an emotional one rather than a literal one," he says in his program notes.

With a nod or two to Shakespeare, he has taken an unhappily married couple, Miranda (Jamie Jones) and Matt (Darren Bridgett) an on unexpected trip to Cuba after the hot air balloon ride that they began in Miami winds up in Havana. As the play opens, they are staying in a formerly grand, now decaying hotel, awaiting permission to return to the United States. Miranda is alone in their room when a government official, Serafin (Johnny Moreno), arrives with mostly questions and confusing information. Later, Matt returns with an exotic dancer, Lily (Isabelle Ortega), whom he has just met.

In the meantime, an American playwright, Amador (Jarion Monroe), is staying in the adjacent room. With him is a prostitute, Ana (Maria Grazia Affinito), whom he has come to regard as his muse. Originally from Cuba, Amador has become a hack, suffers from writer's block and knows he is dying of cancer.

In a technique reminiscent of one often used by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, the action switches between the two rooms and, as becomes apparent to the audience, occurs simultaneously. The occupants of one room can sometimes hear what's happening in the other, but they usually don't interpret the sounds correctly. Set designer J.B. Wilson has created just one room with a bathroom on one side, a closet on the other and the living/sleeping area in the center. French doors along the back open onto a balcony. Scene changes are signaled by blackouts and psychedelic strobe lights in Kurt Landisman's lighting design, accompanied by the music of David Molina's sound design. Costumes are by Fumiko Bielefeldt.

Eventually all of the characters wind up in Miranda and Matt's room, which connects to Amador's room through the closet. Miranda and Amador are the central characters, each trying to break free. As the story unfolds, a hurricane begins to bear down on the hotel, causing extensive damage to the walls and ceiling. The hotel's breaking is symbolic of what's happening to the characters' old lives and their opportunity to start anew.

The play tends to be episodic and somewhat cryptic, especially in the first act, but it comes together nicely in the second. Glazer's direction is crisp, and the acting is uniformly strong.

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