The playbill for Andar sin Pensamiento says the play starts with a tango. At the start, the music played to an empty stage is indeed a tango. You get the sense that director Mario Marcel is trying to bring about an air of seduction. The sense of seduction never quite hits the mark, and we’re instead left with a bit of an uncomfortable production offering few surprises.
Atilio (Edwin Roa) and John (Edwin Bernal), dressed in their Sunday best, meet at a cemetery to talk over their hopes for affairs with the local respectable women. It may be an odd place to meet up for a seduction. but in Jorge Horacio Huertas’s Andar Sin Pensamiento, (Walking Without Thinking), the premise is that this is a great place for the two men to seduce widows. Picture that scene with Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers, but somehow worse.
The play debuted in 2015 and won Huertas the Stages Repertory Theatre award in Houston, Texas for Latino writers.
The script, however, is possibly not suited to contemporary tastes. The early 2000s humor is a bit grating. Jokes about picking up women and mocking their physical features, the, dare I say, locker-room talk, are the basis for its humor, especially cringe-worthy during the play’s first half.
Teatro de la Luna has assembled some very talented artists. Bernal and Roa, both experienced international actors, have excellent chemistry on stage, working the small theater space comfortably. There is a clownish element to their performances. Big gestures, facial expressions and dramatic movements that are consistent with the kind of Latin American theatrical training I remember receiving growing up in Puerto Rico.
When Carmencita (Marcela Ferlito) finally arrives, it’s a momentary breath of fresh air from the blatant sexism. Her entrance comes halfway through the play, but Ferlito more than makes up for it with her presence, her reactions to the men’s ridiculousness, and her command of the stage. She becomes pivotal to the comedy. The funniest moment of the performance had to do with her reaction to a prat-fall, rather than the prat-fall itself.
The aforementioned relief ends quickly. There’s a moment where Atilio, in a ‘gentlemanly’ effort, drapes his coat over Carmelita and his hands linger on her shoulders an uncomfortably long time. There’s no indication she’s consented to this yet. I’m left to wonder if maybe I’m just too millennial for that kind of behavior to be funny.
The set design (Mario Marcel, also the director) manages to fit three graves and a bench on a small set.
Andar Sin Pensamiento closes October 13, 2019. Details and tickets
The story arrives at a not-so-surprising end, with a one-upping conclusion that doesn’t quite make up for the barrage of chauvinism coming before. The tone of the play changes to explore the dynamic of the three characters. Their chemistry continues to work, director Marcel’s tight direction and movement choreography effectively heightens the stakes of their scenario (I can only give away so much to avoid spoilers, but note that the show Lost handled the reveal more effectively).
Teatro de la Luna is a friendly venue in Petworth that is easy to walk past on a busy Georgia Avenue, near the Petworth Metro Station. The front is decorated with hand-drawn images of stars and moons. Their focus on Latin American productions are a welcome alternative to the communities in their neighborhood. The programming that trains Latino and Spanish-speaking children in theatrical and artistic pursuits indicates just how well-connected to their community they are. It is a pity that the choice to present this work is the message they wish to send to the next generation of theatre-makers.
Reviewers note: There are English-language subtitles projected on a screen for select seats. As a native Spanish-speaker, I did not use them in my viewing.
Andar Sin Pensamiento Directed by Mario Marcel. Written by Jorge Horacio Huertas. Featuring Edwin Bernal, Edwin Roa, and Marcela Ferlito. Set and Sound Design, Mario Marcel; Set Construction, Cesar Recalde, Micky Thomas.; Sound & Light operator, Melissa Strova V.; Subtitles Projection, Silvana Fierro; Produced by Teatro de la Luna. Reviewed by Julian Oquendo.