Monday, October 6, 2014

Exiles—Artists Rep—SW Portland

Race For Freedom

This drama, a NW Premiere, is written by Carlos Lacámara and directed by Dámaso Rodriguez (Artists Rep’s Artistic Director).  It is playing at their space at SW Alder St. & 16th Ave. through October 26th.  For more information, go to their site at www.artistsrep.org

The time is 1980.  The President is Carter and Castro rules Cuba.  The place is onboard a small boat, somewhere in the 90 miles of watery stretch between the Florida Keys and Cuba.  It was a brief period of time where Castro allowed whoever wanted to, to leave the island and Carter allowed this migration.  The problem was that Castro released many of the political dissidents and people that were mentally unstable.  This ark represents those dreamers and the damned.

First, I have to say, although the actors were all terrific, the lasting image I have of the show is the boat, moving in the water and the excellent video images on the backdrop.  Plaudits to the director and the designer, Megan Wilkerson.  This not only gave a cramped but realistic playing space for the actors but allowed the audience to partake in the journey, as well, with them.  It was also wise not to have an intermission, as that would have broken the spell.

The story is a microcosm of some of the varied individuals that would have been on the boats escaping toward a brave, new world.  The Lunatic (Bobby Bermea) was a political cartoonist with the regime until he dared ridicule the Leader himself.  But his true reality is in the oceans of his mind (not unlike the Chief in One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and his desire is to taste an apple one more time.  The boat also houses Pepito (John San Nicolas), a political prisoner, a revolutionary waiting for the opportunity to rule in his own reality.  A visionary with violence as his bedmate.

The Captain of the sputtering vessel is Rolando (Andrés Alcalá), a man haunted by his past and those he left behind.  His son, Roli (Rafael Miguel), is a naïve dreamer, who wishes his slice of the American ideal.  He may be unrealistic but he does have courage.  Also, along for the ride is Joaquin (Jason Glick), an avowed Communist at one time who has some terrible secrets he must hide.  His rocky relationship with the Captain goes back many years, in which many wounds are exposed during this trip.  And the last trepid traveler is his daughter, Saadia (Sekai Edwards), an intellectual who didn’t see Cuba as a prison but is just along for the ride because of her father’s desire to escape.

All these explorers, thrown together by circumstance and the elements, must learn to get along in order to survive.  They may rail at the storm, and each other, and commune with the stars but learning to adapt to their circumstances may be the biggest challenge of all…the evolution of one’s being.  My personal favorite scene was the one between Joaquin and Rolando, as they let their guards down and talked frankly about the old days.  A meeting of the minds that may not change things but, at least, they put things in perspective.

This will give you a flavor of the show, in which discoveries will be made as to the fates of all these individuals.  It is tense, provocative and enlightening.  One could compare it to border and immigration issues that we currently have with Mexico.  People simply wanting the best for themselves and their families.  That would probably be understandable to anyone.

Rodriguez and Wilkerson, as mentioned, have created an amazing atmosphere for this story.  And the author, Lacámara, does not seem to be making judgments on people but simply giving them a platform on which to expound on their lives as they see it.  And the actors are all excellent in revealing the colors of their rainbows.  A fine ensemble cast.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.