By Octavio Solis; Directed by Lou Moreno
Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 5.3.15
INTAR Theatre, 500 West 52nd Street
by Cindy Pierre on 4.14.15
Gerardo Rodriguez and Carmen Zilles in Se Llama Cristina. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
BOTTOM LINE: A man and a woman frantically try to put the details of their identities and lives back together when they wake up in a room without a firm grasp of either.
Remember that movie Memento starring Guy Pearce? How about David Lynch movies like Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire? Seen the Matrix trilogy? Take the wacky and abstract goodness of these films, cross them with some intense poetry, and you have Octavio Solis’ Se Llama Cristina, a well-acted, fantastic, and entertaining play about a romp into the unknown, the undefinable, but ultimately not regrettable.
When first surveying the stage at the INTAR Theatre, you’ll scarcely know what to think, but you’ll know you aren't in for a garden-variety type of show. Raul Abrego’s scenic design brings us slanted doors and windows, charcoal human lines on dirty walls, sunken furniture, and a messy floor with crumpled paper. A perfect setting for an acid trip or something similar, and the perfect framework for this story.
Rousing out of sleep are Vespa (Carmen Zilles) and Mike (Gerardo Rodriguez). Or is it Vera and Miguel? Huh? With a drug needle sunken into his arm, Mike/Miguel wakes up to find Vespa/Vera, having no recollection of who he is, who she is, and why they’re in a room with a fried chicken drumstick nestled in a crib. Believing that they must have had some kind of crazy, substance-laced night, evident by the bottle of booze, drug needle and loss of memory, they try to back-trace their steps to figure out how they arrived where they are.
Using a phone hooked mysteriously on a wall that cleverly flashes them back to the past (the way the phone transported Neo from the matrix to being unplugged), Vera and Miguel try furtively to come up with some facts. What do they discover? They're both Mexican, and they met when Vera accidentally dialed Miguel's number while trying to call a rape hotline. There may or may not be a baby, and somehow and for some reason, there's a singing telephone man named Abel (the outrageous and hilarious David Anzuelo) who keeps coming to the door.
With dialogue that is spiced with foul language and spoken word, Solis takes us on an exciting, heartbreaking, and alternately funny journey that is a possible realization of what the psyche of a damaged person looks like...on drugs and alcohol. Solis weaves a tale that almost comes across (in the best possible non-linear way) as a fable scrawled on a bar napkin at poetry night.
As the central characters, Rodriguez and Zilles do much to sell the story under Lou Moreno’s crisp direction, but the whole cast is splendid and ever-watchable. Other elements such as Christina Watanabe’s lighting design and Francesco Sitges-Sarda’s sound bytes work together to create creepy characters of their own. Without them, the delicious eeriness of Se Llama Cristina would be diminished.
If you like theatre that errs on the side of tradition and that features two ruined people trying to make good on life, than Se Llama Cristina is the right play for you. Needs and the aches associated with delayed fulfillment are the highlights here, and they are dramatized well with a tight script and solid performances. Se Llama Cristina is not only cerebral, but also raw and emotional. There are well-placed histrionics, pop-culture influences, and a boatload of creativity. All work seamlessly together for your pleasure, intrigue, and disconcerting good.
(Se Llama Cristina plays at INTAR Theatre, 500 West 52nd Street, through May 3, 2015. Performances are Wednesdays at 6PM, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8PM, and Sundays at 5PM. Tickets are $30. For tickets and more information, visit www.intartheatre.org or call 866.811.4111.)