Monday, April 3, 2017

The Cruise by Jonathan Ceniceroz

L - R Ric Salinas and Kenneth Lopez - Photos by: Grettel Cortes Photography

By Joe Straw

(Art is about breaking rules and the only way I could write about The Cruise was to put myself on the ship.  It wasn’t hard to do, just grab my ticket, take a seat, and watch people interacting.)

I boarded the Majestic, a cruise ship, and one that moves it’s way slowly around the blue seas of the Caribbean. There was a light breeze and I wasn’t feeling all that great.

After the death of a pet, a fish found upturned in her aquarium, “they” said it would be good to just “ get away from the madness” and just “get some rest.”  The reality of the spoken word was refreshing but the cruise was an exorbitant price to pay for the exacerbated mourning of a fish. No matter, I’m here.

Grief stricken I’m here alone.  Settling down with a pad in my lap, I thought this would be a nice time to catch up on my thoughts, write about what I saw, the people on the cruise, and get a tan in the process.

Being shut in these long winter months does not look good to those who want to look brown. If I could get as brown as an Arawak, not get some kind of skin cancer, and blend in, I would decidedly be upbeat and maybe change in some significant way.  

I thought I could remain anonymous on the cruise ship. And just possibly engage in a coze or two.  – Narrator

L - R Carolyn Almos, Gary Lamb, Ric Salinas, and Kenneth Lopez

Boyd Mathiesson (Brian Wallace) greets everyone on the ship.  A peculiar man, of an uncertain comportment, slightly disheveled, who seemed to run the ship. For the life in me, I couldn’t tell where this guy was from – eerie music here “the man from who knows where” end music – he had a German, French, Dutch, and English accent – no. England is stretching it a bit – maybe a Spaniard in some cabalistic circles.  There is something inflexible about him; the acrid biting remarks as though he has been through a lot of pain. The tattered belt he wears is a noticeable giveaway of an unsustainable lifestyle. He is slightly angry and one thinks, he is a closeted gay and possibly an alcoholic. Also, the word around the Majestic is that Boyd is up for a big promotion.  

One person that seemed to have the time of his life is Ramón Diaz (Ric Salinas)—a man who wears outlandish pastels like there is no tomorrow and takes great pride in having fun even at the expense of himself.  Ramón is in hiding; actually he is traveling incognito and under an assumed name. The sunglasses hide very little. One is told that Ramón goes by another last name Garcia, but for now he is Professor Diaz, noted historian of the Arawak natives of the Caribbean. Check your program for the lecture schedule.  

James Garcia (Kenneth Lopez), a writer of sort, is traveling with his father, Ramón.  From just looking at them, one would, at first, suspect a couple, an estranged couple, but no they were father and son. They are about the same height. James didn’t come prepared, like the others, a jacket, tees and inexpensive jeans thrown in a duffel bag and tissue, lots of tissues is about all he had. Writers!

Judith Coburn (Carolyn Almos) is peculiar in the way she looks at everyone, as though she knows you, without introduction.  She is one of “those” people that prowls humanity searching for the opportunity to make a connection. Throw down the straw, and let go of that “Goombay Smash”.  It’s time to make the simplest but lovely connection. With her there is always a purpose.

Howard Thomlinson (Gary Lamb) is married to Judith?  They are together most of the time but I’m a little puzzled why they have different last names.  She doesn’t seem to be a feminist.  They are both white, rich, well not rich rich, but just rich. And he’s off about smoking a joint, any place where he can find solitude, and to talk to someone about something he inexplicably needs which one is not sure of.  He and his wife are from Arizona and reek of white privilege.

The way Boyd and Ramón get together is sinister, in a way, quiet. They have a past they need to talk about. Out in the open on the deck, and in the dark, where they feel safer. That triggers shame in one and fun times for the other.  A ravenous hunger of both - truth and bestial affinities has got one under the control the other.

Ric Salinas, Brian Wallace

In any case, Boyd has found out that Ramón is traveling on the Majestic under an assumed name and possible with a fake passport. And despite Boyd’s internal and external struggle with Ramón, Boyd now has the legal upper hand.

So, that means whatever relationship Ramón has with his son, estranged as though it may be, needs to be patched up quickly.

But Ramón is no slouch when getting the goods on someone especially when it involves his life.  Watching Boyd on the verge of vitiating his son and then calling his son “promiscuous”, well that night on the deck would turn the heartiest of stomachs.

The Cruise by Jonathan Ceniceroz is a wonderful captivating comedy that is engaging in ways that explores the human condition.  The writing is exquisite. At most, it is the examination of deeper relationships - almost excavating to get beyond the surface of simple human foibles.  Each person on board brings on their baggage both figuratively and literally, their history, with and without fault.  The cruise is, in some way, a cleansing ritual for the characters and that is what makes this cruise so fascinating to watch.   There is a deeper meaning here that has to do with the content of the character, in a constricted space, under a wide open canopy, where the characters are literally smothering each other from one moment to the next, interactively, and is decidedly brilliant in that regard.

Health Cullens, the director, shows remarkable range, in guiding the actors to their destination.  There is never a let up in action and this remarkable group of actors never let a moment slip without a reaction that rings a sincere truth. That said, there are a couple of items that need discussion.

Gary Lamb gives rise to the character Howard Thomlinson, a three dimension astute character that did not have a noticeable objective.  (Sometimes you have to hit me over the head with it.)  Thomlinson is husband number two, wants to be involved with his wife’s occupation, but would rather be off doing something else. One really couldn’t tell what that “something else” was. How does Thomlinson fit in the course of the play?  Well, the reality is he is a conservative operative that needs a Latino voice on board his ship. But, really, is that enough? That said, Lamb is an exceptional actor for which the stronger points of an objective must be made to give him a stronger credibility.

Kenneth Lopez, Carolyn Almos
Carolyn Almos breathes life to Judith Coburn, a wife now but mostly a political maven from Pleasant Valley, AZ whose only joy in life is to find her a conservative candidate and then to elect him.  She cruises the ship in the hopes of making a connection or two and then exploiting those connections. Almos is remarkable in her craft, making it look all too easy and that is the trademark of a very fine actor.

Kenneth Lopez plays James Garcia, the son.  James comes to make amends with his estranged father.  A cruise is just the ticket.  But James is much like his father, fun loving and capable of getting into a lot of trouble.  This is a supreme showcase for Lopez that highlights a performance which showed both a subtle nuance in performance and an impeccable range all in one fell swoop. These are moments when you just lift the pen from the page and take notice of a remarkable moment.  Lopez is doing a lot of downtown theatre and the work in this show was very impressive and unexpected.

Ric Salinas plays Ramón Garcia.  Ramón, a complex character, is mostly on this ride for fun. Ramón has gotten himself into trouble with the cruise line and is unable to completely hide from the one thing that he truly likes to have, fun.  Maybe it is his last fling and why not get his son to come visit on this last trip.   Salinas brings his comic genius to the stage in this go out even going overboard in the process to great comic effect. And this is a theatre where you are just a hairs breath away from one of the finest actors in Los Angeles.

Brian Wallace is extraordinary as Boyd. He plays a character where one has to step back and utter to the character, “Where are you from?”  It is a role specifically written with that characterization in mind and Wallace performs it impeccably.

There is something I did not quite get.  Sometimes one has to be hit over the head with a moment and that moment is the “apology”.  What exactly happens when the apology is made?   

Brittany Blouch, Scenic Design, is effective.  One would suggest the budget was not a grand one but this is a set where a little symbolism goes a long way.

Manee Leija, Costume Design, works on many levels.

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Justin Huen – Lighting Design
Ivan Robles – Sound Designer
Antonieta Castillo – Properties Design
Jagger Waters – Stage Manager
Gabe Figueroa – Production Manager

Run! Run! Run! And take someone who is an observer and is dying to go on a cruise.

The Latino Theater Company presents The Cruise written by Jonathan Ceniceroz and Directed by Heath Cullens through April 9, 2017.

514 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA  90013


No comments:

Post a Comment