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A CurtainUp Review
Mariquitas

"Look at all of them holding hands, taking their shirts off, kissing and licking. They think they are free."— Ramon
Carlos Valencia and Oscar Hernandez
(photo credit: Sion Fullana)

Eduardo Machados' plays address the intersection between individual struggles and their broader political and social contexts. Marquitas, now at Theater For The New City and directed by Michael Domitrovich, falls in that category. And like many of the more than 40 plays in Machados' oeuvre, it is an ambitious work, one as concerned with Cuba's past as its present, and as reflective of its wounds as the scars that heal them. But while the political territory is worthy of exploration, it's in simple moments that reveal the characters' common humanity that Marquitas succeeds best.

Set in 2008, the play presents a pastiche of characters representing various facets of the modern Cuban LGBT community. They coalesce around a bed and breakfast (rendered painterly by Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams) that welcomes gay European sex tourists and their Cuban companions.

Jose Maria (Oscar Hernandez) is one such tourist, a Spaniard who has devoted years and considerable funds to his beloved Tito (Carlos A. Valencia), a married man who is nonetheless devoted to and possibly in love with his elder benefactor.

This particular visit to Havana, we learn, will be Jose Maria's last. He is in the last stages of lung cancer and plans to die in the country where his heart lies. His relationship with Tito is rooted in a financial transaction, but it's still genuine and ultimately touching. As Jose Maria, Hernandez brings a soft and wistful sensibility that is endlessly endearing. His dynamic with Tito is made especially vibrant by its colonial undertones.

The interplay of the sexual and the political is a trademark feature in Machado's work, and it is center stage in Marquitas. With a running time over two hours, Machado has plenty of room with which to explore how various classes make sense of this duality.

There are few easy answers. Even when two disparate generations of hustlers — represented by the older Ricardo (Liam Torres) and the younger Cristobal (talented newcomer Ricardo Davila) — brush up against one another, Machado avoids lazy comparisons about how the country has changed with time. All around, Machado seems to embrace ambiguity.

Marquitas is least stimulating when it abandons this quality and goes for more heavy-handed dissections of the modern climate in Cuba. A character based on the real life LGBT activist Mariela Castro Espin (Begonya Plaza), for instance, serves primarily as a mouthpiece for speeches. Through no fault of the actress, Mariela never quite seems made of flesh and blood.

While the sheer breadth of experiences and ideas in Marquitas is one of its chief joys, its cost is a sometimes meandering plot. Machado bathes his characters in the thematic material, rather than charting a clear path through it. Indeed, a lot of time is spent on stage sitting and chatting over coffees.

Luckily, there's a lot to talk about. And after more than 40 plays, it seems that Machado may never run out of things to say about those areas that interest him. It's a symptom of a mind relentlessly seeking truth, even if the answers remain elusive.

Mariquitas
Written by Eduardo Machado
Directed by Michael Domitrovich
Cast: Omar Chagall (Ramon), Matthew d'Amato (Actor), Ricardo Davila (Cristobal), Oscar Hernandez (Jose Maria), Begonaya Plaza (Mariela Castro Espin), Liam Torres (Ricardo), Ed Trucco (Jacinto), Carlos A. Valencia (Tito), Ana Valle (Mercedes)
Set Design: Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams
Lighting Design: Alexander Bartenieff
Sound Design: Elizabeth Rhodes
Associate Director: Emma Rosa Went
Costume Design: Michael Bevins
Running Time: 140 minutes with a 10 minute intermission
Theater For The New City, 155 1st Ave., New York, NY 10003, www.theaterforthenewcity.net, (212) 254-1109
From 4/27/13, closing 5/19/2013
Performance times: Thursday - Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm, additional performances May 8 and May 15 at 8pm.
Ticket cost: $15
Reviewed by Jordan G. Teicher at 5/2/2013 performance.


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