Friday, December 25, 2015

Garbo’s Cuban Lover – by Odalys Nanin

 By Joe Straw

Mercedes De Acosta (Odalys Nanin) reclined on her luxurious couch, comforted by the warm soft spots that caressed her aging backside while trying to forget the pain from her recent surgery. A fresh bandage was wrapped around her head.  And no doubt, this was not a style she particularly liked.  Not only that, the throbbing was so great she had trouble concentrating on the things that made her happy.   

Yet, despite her pain, there was still life in De Acosta. She closed her eyes and embraced the darkness for relief but coruscations always triggered a deep yearning to open her eyes, and see beyond the shadows.     

Tonight her mind was playing tricks on her, possibly drug induced, but she saw the things that “were”, at first a silhouette, and then the lovely form of a female dancer.   Embracing the image, appreciating it more than some could imagine, De Acosta’s eyes formed the voluptuous figure of Isadora Duncan (Jacqueline Rae), once a friend, and a lover, but now, in benevolent ecstasy, her imaginary plaything.   

Lifted by the cold fog memories, Duncan’s physical presence fluttered in an enclosed case, until that paradigm could not contain her any longer. And in step with an imaginary initiative, Isadora Duncan danced her way to De Acosta and stripped off her bandages, the emblematic implements of her impairment, and also her outer layer of clothing, leaving her wearing nothing, but a brand new tuxedo.   

And, precipitously, De Acosta’s mind became clear, her body was able to move about, and she felt as limber as if she were a child.  And so they danced until the thoughts came back, and her mind was clear once again.  

In her condition De Acosta’s memories are spoken to the muse if only to tell her stories of a reality that exist in De Acosta’s mind, the truth, the whens, and wherefores.  

And certainly the ideas of De Acosta telling her memories would lift almost any lifeless soul to dance, to once again feel the touch of another woman, the hands, the cheeks, and the hips precipitating a night of nocturnal quivering.

Macha Theatre/Films presents the re-imagined version of Garbo’s Cuban Lover and original play by Odalys Nanin, produced, directed and written by Odalys Nanin and co-directed by Laura Butler. The show had 4 performances only December 12th, 13th, 18th , and 19th, 2015.

I saw this show in 2011 (Please see the earlier review on my blog.) and came back to see it again with a whole new set of actors with one exception of Odalys Nanin who wonderfully reprises her role as De Acosta.   

Garbo’s Cuban Lover was just as marvelous as the first time I saw it.  There were little differences in the staging if there was any at all. One would have to question why only four performances this holiday season when there are so many things to enjoy about the show.  

Be that as it may one would like to address the performances, by the individual actors, and the direction of the show by Odalys Nanin and Laura Butler.  

Odalys Nanin was charming as De Acosta.  Nanin is funny and brings the best elements to the character. There is always more to add, to strengthen the conflict, and to apply elements of want to the craft.  Simply put, to win Garbo, to keep Garbo, and to then fight off the others who want to come between them.

Clementine Heath is a stunning actor with an amazing craft.  Her Garbo is inspiring, a complex character, and she brings enough of the backstory to make Garbo an exciting three-dimension personality. There is certainly more to add, especially with the bad luck component to her character and to accentuate that element only to add to the comedy.  

Jacqueline Rae has some very funny moments as Isabela and was also Isadora Duncan.  She definitely needs more to do as Isadora besides dancing and being a muse earpiece. Conflict drives a relationship on stage and Rae needs to find that conflict most particularly her relationship with De Acosta.  At this point Duncan is dead, she is a ghost, a figment of an imagination.  This should not preclude conflict; the audience (me) needs to understand why she is back, how she feels about De Acosta, and what needs to be done.  Without a clear objective an actor will flounder with no place to go.  Not picking on Rae but definitive choices need to be made to give this dancer form and acuity.  
Lianne Schirmer is Salka Viertel and brings a sinister element to the role.  Viertel is someone who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Viertel is a player, someone deeply connected into the inner workings of Hollywood.  She is a meet and greet conniver to get what she wants. It is hard to see anything likeable about the character, but there are the grand moments of her relationship with Garbo, their history, their first film together, and those moments by Schirmer hit the mark and are superb.

Margo Alison plays Marlene Dietrich a woman who wants De Acosta if only to steal her away from Garbo.  I didn’t hear much of a German accent but she made up for it with a strong objective, getting what she came for without hesitation. And, oh yes, she got it.

Gary Gunter plays Thalberg.  It is an interesting role, fast, furious, and loud.  But Gunter does not bring the element that makes him tick, the motives for his rants, the sly undertones of a man who makes it his business to be on top of everything, his hands in every aspect of production.   Still, I enjoyed Gunter’s performance but wanted a little bit more, something that would give the character an edge, something that would ring true to his motives and objective. There is an interesting scene with Thalberg shouting from the rafters at De Acosta while she is in the throws of lovemaking.  What if he were in the room doing the same thing, not caring about what they were doing, only wanting the script, now? Gunter also had the roles of the editor and Mr. Van Stein.

Chala Savino does some very nice work as Poppy Kirk and has a marvelous dance number. Also, the fight scene was marvelous.

Members of the crew are as follows:

John Toom -  Set and Light Designer
Eric Bridges – Stage Manager, Tech Operator
Chris Hume – Video and Images
Monica Orozco – Dan Choreographer
Jane Owen – Publicist

The show only had four performances this time around.  Run! Run!  And bring a friend that likes the trappings of Hollywood.

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