Two young women sit, waiting, on a bench outside a prison. They make friendly small talk until both discover they love the same man, Marco Antonio Lazur. All at once, they’re enemies. Who gets the guy in the end? Back up and reread the title, Rosa de dos Aromas, and inhale the rose with all its mysterious, multi-layered petals. The story is an inspiring parable.
On the surface, the play by the celebrated Mexican playwright, Emilio Carballido, is a comedy about two women, one, a married woman, a wife in the traditional sense, and the other, a concubine, or kept woman, who seek to bail their shared lover out of jail. The wife, Gabriela (Anabel Marcano), a no-nonsense, exacting translator, and mother of three sons, describes herself as divorced, although in reality, she is still married to Lazur, who faces a ten-year sentence for an alleged rape of an underage girl. The other woman, Marlene (Karen Morales-Chacana), named after the 20th century film goddess and femme fatale Marlene Dietrich, has never married. A hairdresser who operates a beauty salon, Marlene is Marco’s mistress, and has borne him two sons.
Gabriela and Marlene meet in a tea shop and keep up appearances by agreeing to split half the bail as if splitting the bill for tea. The situation, realistic at first, moves into the realm of absurdity when both women pledge office equipment and beauty appliances to raise money, and appear quite willing to trade in their livelihoods for their man.
This is satire with a sting to the heart, a perfect vehicle for director Mario Marcel’s delightfully light touch of inventive staging and set design. It’s amazing how this artistic and executive director of Teatro de la Luna and his company do so much with so little. Scenes switch between split platforms, Marlene’s beauty shop and Gabriela’s business office, alternately lit on opposite sides of the stage by Ayun Fedorcha. Scenes change with increasing tempo and frequency, with split-second lighting changes, timed by light operator Peter Pereyra. The intensity builds until the voices of the two characters are topping each other. Finally the two women end Act I talking over each other simultaneously, like a split screen in a movie.
The two actresses give tour-de-force performances worthy of bravas, and make this show worth seeing. Marcano, who was the essence of feminist power as Lady Godiva in Kick-Butt Women in February 2009, and memorable in the title role of the surrealist painter in Frida Kahlo, the Passion in February 2008, is superb as Gabriela, especially in her self-revelatory scene. The mask of the timid translator drops as she teeters from tipsy to drunkenness after downing a bottle of Mexican rum and her true feelings surface. Marcano has some priceless moments in this scene. We’re with her every gulp of the way as Gabriela admits she’s glad her womanizing husband, a trickster like Don Juan, is jailed.
Sparks fly when Morales-Chacana proves to be an equally lively match, in Act II, in which both women get drunk together and really duke it out. Morales-Chacana plays Marlene as an independent woman capable of re-inventing herself, even belting out one speech after climbing atop the dining room table. But like all jokes with a good punch line: there’s a surprise twist at the end.
Carballido, the playwright, who died last year, wrote Rosa de dos Aromas in 1989 as a biting, social commentary about women’s status in Mexican society. This celebrated playwright, awarded the National Prize of Literature in Mexico in 1996, confronts the fallout of failed marriages, unsupported wives and unprotected illegitimate children.
Rosa de dos Aromas is an allegory for the beautiful things that can happen when women of many resources grow and flower into people of infinite possibilities.
Rosa de dos Aromas (Two-Scented Rose)
by Emilio Carballido . Translation in English sur-titles, by David Bradley
directed by Mario Marcel
produced by Teatro de la Luna
reviewed by Rosalind Lacy
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