Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Estoy en el Rincón
Also see Stephanie's review of Trotsky & Frida
Estoy en el Rincón was originally produced in 1993. A group of healthcare professionals approached La Compania de Teatro de Albuquerque to write a play about alcohol and drug abuse in the Latino community. Salomé Martínez Lutz took up the challenge. The title takes its name from the first few words of a drinking song, "I'm in the corner of a bar."
In its first run, 10,000 people throughout New Mexico saw the play. It returned in 1995 and 1996, and it toured Texas in 1996, where it won a award Best Performance award at a Latino theatre festival.
The story follows the lives of three generations of the Manzanares family. One of the characters, Marcos, is a teenager in the first act and appears as a father in the second act. In an inspired bit of casting, the same actor playing Marcos as a teenager in the first act appears as the son of Marcos in the second act, underscoring the generational repetition of alcoholism.
This is a powerful story of lives trapped in misery and pain. The characters turn to alcohol as a release from conflict and pain, but the effects of the drink multiply both until life becomes hopeless. Martínez Lutz doesn't shy away from showing just how deadly alcoholism can be. And if the severity of the problems this family faces seem extreme, a glance at headlines in the Albuquerque Journal prove the reality of the play daily.
Martínez Lutz directs her play in a production by Teatro Nuevo Mexico. The actors do a commendable job with a few notable standouts. Jose "Pepe" Gallardo as the young Marcos and later Marcos' teenage son is a delight to watch. He captures well the teenage blend of bravado and insecurity. Danna Velazquezan eighth grader at the Public Academy for Performing Artsis absolute dynamite as Marcos' sister and later as his daughter.
But the truly mind-blowing performance comes from Chuy Martinez as the Narrator/Calavera. I don't know if it's a stroke of brilliance that Martinez got this role or if it's a stroke of genius that this role got Martinez. It's impossible to tell actor from the character. The Narrator/Calavera wanders throughout the drama with a guitar, singing songs of longing and despair. Half his face is painted as a skeleton. He's both life and death, and in the hands of Martinez, he's pure soul; he's the Jiminy Cricket of the pain killers, always learning toward the troubled family suggesting there's a way out of the pain. More drugs and alcohol.
Martínez Lutz updated the play from 22 years ago and there are a couple of bumps in the process. An '80s "Billie Jean" doesn't quite work as Marcos' theme song in the mid-90s. There are a few other similar stumbles. This could have been avoided by simply not updating it, since it doesn't matter if the drama takes place in the '80s, the '90s, or now.
The Wells Fargo Auditorium at the National Hispanic Cultural Center is a wonderfully intimate space for this play. It has worked well for all of the Siembra plays I've seen. The production crew offers solid support, but the heart of the play is in the sad story and the desperate characters, and they came through wonderfully.
Estoy en el Rincón, written by Salomé Martínez Lutz, will run through November 1, 2015, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Performances are at 7:30 Thursday through Saturday, and at 2:00 on Sunday. Tickets are $18, with a $3 discount for seniors and students. For more information or to reserve tickets, call the NHCC at 246-2262, or go to nationalhispaniccenter.org.