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LETTERS TO EDITOR
The Have Little
by Laura Hitchcock
Nikos Kazantzakis said everyone has a duty to tell the unique story of his own life and this week we've seen two: Arthur Miller's autobiographical memory play After The Fall and The Have Little, the first play by Migdalia Cruz, inspired by events she observed and experienced in the Bronx of her childhood. Developed in Maria Irene Fornes' Hispanic Playwrights in Residence Laboratory at New York's Intar Theatre where it debuted in 1991, the current production mounted by The Group at Strasberg is the play's West Coast Premiere.
Cruz's coming-of-age story could have been whispered to the diary kept by its teen-age heroine Lillian. She lives with her mother Carmen, who spurns visits from Lillian's father, the feckless alcoholic Jose. Lillian misses Jose. Her love emanates so physically, her need to stroke his face is so disturbing that Jose whips off his shirt and erupts into a masochistic frenzy of guilty self-laceration. Carmen is usually acerbic and Lillian has to scrape for crumbs of intimacy from her, too, most notably in the volume of Don Quixote, Carmen's cherished gift from her father, which she gives to Lillian on her birthday. Lillian's best friend Michi is also a source of conflict. Bright and ambitious, she alternates between playing games and dancing with Lillian, then tormenting her and telling her how stupid she is.
It's predictable that Lillian allows herself to get pregnant by the first boy who tells her she's special. He dies of a drug overdose and she becomes an unwed mother, afraid to take her ailing baby to the hospital for fear they'll take him away from her. There are more shocks and tragedies in store for Lillian and Cruz wisely eschews any neat or happy ending. She discovers and delicately traces Lillian's belief, growing along with her child, that "The baby takes the bad out of me because he's good". Although these characters and their dilemmas are familiar, the playwright's perceptiveness and sense of drama bring life and involvement to their story.
America Ferrera is up to the challenging range required by this role. Very much in touch with her emotions, she makes Lillian as wholesome as fresh-baked bread. It will be interesting to follow the career of this young actress who won the 2002 Sundance Special Jury Prize for Acting in the film "Real Women Have Curves" which premieres on HBO in May. Julian Scott Urena brings a quirky jerky energy to Jose and Maricela Ochoa's edgy fierceness is right for Carmen. As Michi, Elisa Bocanegra is smart, bossy and gloats over mean schoolgirl tricks. She drops all those traits to display a credible maturity and sincerity in her last scene. Director Diana Rodriguez brings warmth, humor and reality to Cruz's play.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp' s editor.
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