Monday, September 3, 2012

Love Struck by Odalys Nanin and co-written by Marie Barrientos

By Joe Straw

“She had to extract a kind of personal advantage from things, and she rejected as useless everything that promised no immediate gratification – for her temperament was more sentimental than artistic, and what she was looking for was emotions, not scenery.” – Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary

The Macha Theatre is centrally located in West Hollywood on Kings Road just north of Santa Monica Boulevard.  Parking is always available across the street for $5.00 if you arrive after six.  

Arriving early, we hop on over to Hugo’s for a rich chocolate desert and an herbal tea. (This is West Hollywood.)  I could have done without the aftertaste from the herbal tea. Hugo’s and Macha Theatre have a symbiotic relationship, as there is a “Love Struck” poster above the urinal.  

Macha Theatre/Films presents Love Struck, written and directed by Odalys Nanin, a story about two women who fall in love.  No, they are love struck, embraced by overpowering feelings of love and fantasies.  These are the thoughts that linger long after the person leaves your sight, which evolves in a certain part of the brain, and causes one to lose focus of the simple day-to-day tasks of living.    

As the play opens, Laura (Odalys Nanin) and Rachel (Tricia Cruz) have had a relationship that has lasted a while.  In fact, this is their third anniversary.  They are going to celebrate!  

But, there is a caveat; gunshots and police sirens are heard just outside their door. If they can gather enough courage and unhinged themselves, they will be able to leave.  (Typical Los Angeles scene.)

Locked in a fearful embrace, they question whether they should go out or not.  Venturing out may cause them to see disturbing images and wouldn’t that put a damper on their anniversary. But they do go because, one, they have rehearsed a dance number. Two, the party is being thrown for them.  And three, they can’t miss a party.

“This is a toast to my ex who said we’d last three months.” - Rachel  

They dance a lovely spin to a Latin beat and thank Juliana for throwing the party and providing the “chuchas (vaginas) and lemonada”.

Be that as it may, no party can be complete without backstory and our couple are asked to explain how they met, who was attracted to whom, and so on.

And so we travel back in time to explore their relationship of their first sighting, when they were with other people, their second sighting, and a power lunch.  Both are actresses, going up for the same Latina roles, and both are trying to make their way through the segregated maze that is Hollywood.

Neither Rachel nor Laura wants to fall in love and, when they first meet, they try to keep their relationship platonic.  Meanwhile, both are burning with desire. So hot, they can hardly be in the same room together, their eyes accepting lusting thoughts, but not doing anything about it.  

Rachel, in burning confusion, calls later to suggest that they rehearse a scene and, as the scene progresses, Rachel slaps Laura.

“What are you, a Method actress?” – Laura

They kiss a long lugubrious kiss which brings them back to present day and immediately we see signs of a breakup, an unexpected moment that sets in motion a change in their relationship.

“It’s been a while.” – Laura

“You’re getting heavy.” - Rachel

As struggling actresses, their relationship moves to the stale column. Laura wants to renovate the garage in the back allowing them to live there and rent the house so they don’t have to work.  It seems like an ideal plan for Laura but Rachel doesn’t like the idea.

Odalys Nanin plays Laura and is the writer, director and producer of this fine production.  Her sumptuous plate is filled with many jobs. Nanin does a fine job as Laura and, at the end of the night, sweat is pouring from her pores from singing, dancing, and playing the bongos.  In any case, she is a very natural, precise, and physical actor.

I’ve noticed in a couple of plays, Nanin wears a particular vest—that must be her lucky vest.  (Lucky charms are a necessity in theatre.)

“¿Qué pasó?  ¿Qué pasó?” (What happened?) I can’t let this go.  This is a term I hear everyday.  It is just so natural when Laura says it. However, on stage, this term must mean more.  It is in response to someone who wants to change the relationship. It is a moment where all things change, particularly this relationship.  Possibly it is not as dramatic as one may think but I believe it is a response that can give more meaning to the moment. Rachel is turning the relationship inside out, so “¿Qué pasó?” on stage must mean more. To be tender, to be loving, to want to know of what’s on her mind, are choices I want to see. “¿Qué pasó?” is a call to creative action.  

Also, I’m going to pick on a moment: the phone call to her mother.  We got to have a lot more going on than what was presented. Rachel’s mother is conservative Cuban.  (Is there another kind?) And she hasn’t come to grips with her daughter being a lesbian.  Well, we have two loving lesbians in the room and a chance to see a lot more action if only to solidify the relationship or move the relationship in another direction.

I’m nit picking here.  Odalys Nanin gave a wonderful performance and her direction is marvelous.  Also, this is a show for everyone, adults especially. The play says something about connection, compassion and passion. Oddly enough, listening to the words, I can visualize straight and gay couples playing the roles as well.  

Tricia Cruz is equally talented and was very engaging as Rachel. She brings a grand physical Latina life to the role.  On top of that she adds heat to this exceptional exploration of her character. Her comedic timing is right on and she does a grand impersonation of Lucille Ball complete with red wig and does a fine impersonation of Desi Arnaz for that matter.  Adding Desi’s laugh would be a plus.    

I enjoyed and had a lot of fun viewing Odalys Nanin’s play, which was also co-written by Marie Barrientos.  But, on this particular night, it was difficult to determine how everything ended.  Did they split up?  Did they reconcile? Were they able to overcome the obstacles of their own independent spirits?

No one lives in a state of ataraxia but I believe both characters want to keep their emotional lives as simple as possible while having as much fun as possible before they decide to move on.  

I liked the quote from Madame Bovary.  It says a lot about both characters.  But I’ve read it over and over again and am not able to determine which character it applies to the most.  Perhaps it was both.  Both need immediate gratification but time placed a damper on their lust or love for each other that toys could not cure.

The Stage Manager is Carey Dunn.  He also served as the Lighting Technician.

The show ran for one hour including intermission.  I’m told that there were some video problems so perhaps it is a little longer.

Run! And take someone whose eyes take you away into unchartered territories.  You’ll have a great time.

Reservations:  323-960-7724 – Through September 23, 2012

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