Thursday, July 27, 2017

eSe Teatro Reaches Out to Less Fortunate

Cast of MUD (Maryssa Lagervall)
eSe Teatro
(at Slate Theater)
Through July 30, 2017

eSe Teatro is producing MUD (or Barro), by Maria Irene Fornes, as both a Spanish-language and English-language production at the versatile Slate Theater (in the INS Building). The three actors, Monica Cortes Viharo, Marco Adiak Voli, and Fernando Cavallo, perform in both languages.

The play is a plaintive drama about three people surviving in poverty and depravation who still have desires and aspirations like all of us. The effort by director (and formidable power behind eSe Teatro) Rose Cano is clearly to open our minds and hearts to those who live on the edges and who strive to find joy. The company’s dedication to elevating those who have little to none was written about recently in The Seattle Times as Cano was shown reaching out to the local homeless shelter to invite clients to come to her production.

MUD takes place in the ‘30s somewhere in America. Mae (Viharo) and Lloyd (Voli) begin this production by entering a dirtied “basement” of a space and taking it over. It appears to be an abandoned building squat effort, partly because Cavallo, as Henry, also enters and is wordlessly encouraged to “squat” with them.

However, nothing further is done to confirm that the space was not theirs to inhabit. It’s a bit of a disconnect from what the rest of the play seems to suggest. In fact, there is food served, electricity for an iron and lighting and even heat, one supposes.

Mae’s relationship with Lloyd is unclear. It’s clear that they’d been sexually intimate – she says so. She tells Henry that she’s unsatisfied with Lloyd and that Henry is her new love interest. Mae and Lloyd are illiterate, but Mae tries to continue to improve her reading and Lloyd seems to mostly want to have sex again. But Lloyd is deterred from doing much because of a mysterious illness. Mae does seem to finally get Lloyd to a doctor for medicine, but Henry is incensed that Lloyd’s medicine is paid for with Henry’s money.

Fornes has been lauded by many luminaries of the American theater. Some love her style of minimalism and simple, almost characterless dialogue. I don’t understand why anyone likes her plays. Certainly, I respect eSe Teatro’s desire to produce Spanish-language writers and Latinx writers, and perhaps the Spanish version of MUD is more evocative to a general audience.

I appreciate Cano as a writer of plays that have been done by her company and look forward to many more of those. I also hope that she can bring many more Latinx-written plays to Seattle, hopefully by less “avante garde” writers with perhaps a more conventional storytelling technique. Cano’s recent productions of her plays include Don Quixote and Sancho Panza: Homeless in Seattle and Bernie’s Apt.

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