The set places us in a blighted area outside Mexico City in the 1960s. A cyclorama displays a skyline of city buildings. Railroad tracks emerge from upstage center. Dingy walls splotched with dirt-brown stain enclose the stage area. We are in the part of town where garbage is dumped.
It is here where two teenagers, Toña, (Sharon Desiree) and Polo (Steven Soto), motivated by mysterious impulses, accidentally derail a train, news venders announce. Basically, the playwright Emilio Carballido takes a realistic front page news event and mixes reality with fantasy. In 21 short scenes, opening with the spotlight on The Medium, the playwright explores the psychological, even mystical, reasons the derailment has taken place. What’s the truth of what really happened? Who is to blame? How could teenagers do such a thing? Why did it happen? That’s the intellectual force that guides us through this not-to-be-missed, Yo También Hablo De La Rosa/I Too Speak of the Rose.
Polo is playing hooky from school because he has no shoes and the teacher stands at the door to check if shoes are polished. He is defiant: “I’ll be damned if I’m going to polish my feet.” With nothing to do except gamble with stray coins from the public pay phone, Polo teams up with Toña and together they explore the garbage dump. They find a washtub that’s too heavy to move because it’s filled with hardened cement. The children turn the tub on its side and roll it onto the railroad tracks, even though a train whistle is sounding. We hear the train collision. (Fantastic sound effects occur from sound designer Neil McFadden).
Is it childish curiosity that motivates the children? Destructive rage? Teenage rebellion against society? (This is the 1960s.) Or perhaps it is their naïve belief that the train’s impact will free the tub from the cement and make it useful.
The Medium, played with beautifully shaded nuance and gentle passion by renowned actress Julieta Egurrola, well-known in Mexico from her award-winning portrayals on television and in films, is exalting. Staging by artistic director Hugo Medrano, and solid acting support from the entire GALA ensemble, fills the play with fluidity and suspense from one thrilling moment to the next in this mystery. Spell-binding and unique, the Medium appears four times in the play, at first costumed in a tunic of black, bedecked with embroidered flowers. Each time she reappears her clothing is brighter and lighter, until we last see her dressed in gauzy fabric, all-white, ethereal and other-worldly.
In her opening monologue, the Medium imagines her heart as a sea anemone, a part of everything physical that she sees:… “complicated, …..devoted to the task of regulating endless…..canals…” in half-light. She recalls all that she knows of the world and the future. All memories she has stored, from her mother, her grandmothers and friends and their memories, like an endless hall of mirrors. Also, she can forecast the future. Egurrola’s voice hypnotizes us as she guides us like a Greek chorus interpreting what we see on this journey through urban landscape. We don’t miss one enunciated syllable in her soft-pedaled monologues. In the same style, all the characters are presented to us through monologues addressed directly to the audience.
The train crash is recreated three times during the play, providing time to explore three different reactions as to why it happened. We are drawn in and asked to participate in the event from different perspectives.
For causing half-a-million dollars in damages, the teenagers have to face the harsh judgment from their Teacher, given a stern portrayal by Marta Cartón. The children have to be removed from their society as criminals to prevent further derailments. But why did they commit the crime in the first place?
One delightfully absurd explanation is psychological, as presented by the First professor, played by Oscar Ceville. The wreck can be explained by repressed libido, the Freudian interpretation. Everything has sexual explanation. Bottled-up sexual energy is the reason for the derailment. Examples of Freudian symbolism abound: motorcycles and the public telephone that spits out unclaimed coins represent repressed sexual expression.x
Another reason may economic. These are poor children. The Marxist economist, exemplified by the Second Professor, played by Manolo Santalla, sees the accident as an exemplification of class struggle. Propaganda posters capture photos of the common man’s angry faces, that seem to ridicule the clichéd posters of class conflict and protest. But the Marxist sees the derailment as social protest, through rose-colored glasses. The garage owner or common worker is humanized by Maximino González, played by Edwin R. Bernal, who raises his fist in a rebellious rallying cry and stands on top of the mound of trash, as if to lead a lower-class revolt.
But altruism is short lived. The Scavengers enlist support from their families to bring bags from home to drag off beans and sugar from the derailment. Several of the poor who are gathering food express their pangs of conscience about stealing. But pangs of hunger prevail, and the realists rationalize and send for others to cart off as much as they can.
Another high point makes this play the masterpiece that it is. The Rose Lecture by the Lecturer, lampooning a scholarly master-of-ceremonies, dynamically performed by Peter Pereyra, near the end of the play, is about how the anatomy of the rose relates to their lives. Which picture truly represents the Rose? The flower in full bloom? The individual petals that drop off? Or the rose fiber revealed under a microscope? Pereyra, as if he is a game show host, is radiant and hysterically funny in his exaggerated pitch to intellectuals.
The Median represents the mysterious forces in this play. In hushed tones, she speaks metaphorically of the categorization of human behavior. The use of the rose as a metaphor exemplifies the poetic rebellion against modern day problem solving through the use of the computer. The rose metaphor used throughout the play integrates the text and gives the play its heightened reality.
Want to go?
Yo También Hablo de La Rosa/I Too Speak of the Rose
closes February 26, 2017
Details and tickets
It’s when the characters confront the mystery of half-fulfilled prophesies that choreographed dance is used. One of the most beautiful and meaningful passages in the play is danced in the Story of the Two. Two brothers, one danced by Peter Pereyra and the other, Oscar Ceville, are told in a dream to go to two different towns at opposite ends of a path from each other. After they meet half-way, they build a very small church. They both leave bare ground, feeling their prophesies were only half-fulfilled. And do you know what happened next? the Medium asks. “That’s another story,” is the reply, a repeated refrain that bridges one scene to the next. And the mysterious dance goes on forever.
Violent actions have consequences and Polo and Toña are jailed eventually. Polo’s mother, heartfully played in a shaft of light, the size of a door, by Lorena Sabogal, worries about losing her job, and how impossible it will be to free her daughter.
This play, that is rich with allusions like a Pandora’s box, ends with all the characters joining hands and dancing a frenetic chain dance. But it is significant that this dancing is not regional, like “The Mexican Hat Dance,” (the jarabe tapatío) that Polo and Toña dance with verve. The Medium envisions the future and sees a mystic unity. But you have to see the play, to celebrate the future that is revealed.
All Latin American theater is known to be an instrument for social change. And Carballido presents the many sides of the truth. You, the audience member, have to make a choice.
Yo También Hablo De La Rosa/I Too Speak of the Rose, written by Emilio Carballido. Directed by Hugo Medrano. Cast: Julieta Egurrola plays the Medium. Roberto Colmenares portrays Newspaper Vendor, Male Scavenger I, Friend. Sharon Desiree plays Toña; Steven Soto plays Polo. Peter Pereyra depicts a Man, a Male Student, Poor Boy, Dancer 2, Lecturer on The Rose. Chema Pineda-Fernández, the Candy Vendor, Male Scavenger 2. Marta Cartón plays an Old Street Vendor, Teacher, Toña’s Mother. Edwin R. Bernal plays Maximino González. Lorena Sabogal is a Female Scavenger 1, Friend, Poor Woman, Polo’s Mother. Jessyka Rodríguez is a Woman at Bus Stop, Poor Girl. Oscar Ceville is a Poor Man, Dancer 1, First Professor.
Melissa Strova Valencia plays a Female Student, Female Scavenger 2, Toña’s sister. Manolo Santalla plays Don Pepe, Second Professor. Scenic Design by Daniel Pinha. Lighting Design by Alberto Segarra. Costuming by Alicia Tessari. Sound Design by Neil McFadden. Properties Design by Jessica Cancino. Choreography by Marta Cartón. Production Manager, Lena Salins. Technical Director, Reuben Rosenthal. Stage Manager Tsaitami Duchicela. Produced by GALA Hispanic Theatre . Reviewed by Rosalind Lacy.