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San Francisco by Richard Connema

A Bizarre Production of Rogelio Martinez's Displaced

Also see Richard's review of The Miser

Marin Theatre Company is finishing its season with the world premiere of Displaced at their theatre located at 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley. The two hour, one intermission play is billed as a Cuban farce. It has been developed farcically rather then realistically and it does have two of the three essentials for a good farce: good actors and good direction. The one essential missing is a good script; this one borders on a television sitcom comedy with very little focus on the characters.

Displaced is about a wayward hot air balloon that was blown off course from Miami, Florida, and dropped down in the middle of Castro's Havana. The big question is whether this a dream or a nightmarish vision of Cuban American writer Amador (Jarion Monroe), living with his muse Ana (Maria Grazia Affinito) who is also a prostitute in the Havana Grand Hotel, which has seen better days.

An American couple, Matt (Darren Bridgett) and Miranda (Jamie Jones), are in a conundrum in one of the run down rooms of the hotel. They had been attending Miranda's sister wedding in Miami and, following the nuptials, decided to take a ride in a hot air balloon out of the Florida city. Suddenly, a hurricane came in and the balloon drifted over Havana.

Matt and Miranda would love to get out of Havana but CNN has given them "15 minutes of fame," and an official of the Castro government, Serafin (Johnny Moreno), is impeding their departure. He seems to have something on Miranda since he is always carrying an intelligence file and asks pointed questions to her. Matt in the meantime is chasing an exotic dancer named Lily (Isabelle Ortega).

There is a little of the Alan Ayckbourn technique in this production since it all takes place on the same set of a wonderfully detailed, dilapidated, high-ceiling hotel room devised by J.B. Wilson. The once grand chandelier has mismatched bulbs in its sockets. There are elements of a French farce in this production with a lot of entrances and exits going on in the various doors of the set.

Rogelio Martinez' script could use some reworking; it sounds too much like sharp television situation comedy dialogue. Many of the characters are not fleshed out. In fact, Amador says in the second act as the Castro official is demanding some explanation of what is happening, "Where's my script?" Yep, I agree with that remark. Matt seems to be wandering around, several times saying, "I'm confused." Better words were never spoken.

J.B. Wilson's set seems to be one of the stars of the show, especially when a hurricane occurs in the second act and the wind blows, lights go out and David Molina's evocative sound effects cause some of the structure to collapse. Kurt Landisman has devised a kaleidoscopic light frame to move from one scene to the next.

Amy Glazer has assembled a group of very good comic actors and many rise above the script to give good performances. Darren Bridgett (Last Schwartz, Fortune) as Matt has very little to do but to look confused and use simple sentences to express his feelings. He does a lot of running around the stage, including chasing Lily around the bedroom just like in a Feydeau farce. Even at the end, when everything seems to come out against him, he merely says, "OK."

Jarion Monroe (Old Wicked Songs) portrays the once successful American playwright who has returned to Cuba to kill himself. He has been informed that he has terminal cancer. He carries in his bag many prop pistols from Hedda Gabbler, but one is real. Monroe has a good ear for comedy and farce and delivers some of the best punch lines.

Miranda, played by Jamie Jones (The Typographer's Dream), is the most fully drawn character in this production. Jones plays the role as a defenseless character. She speaks too rapidly in the first act to make sense of her conversation, but hopefully, she has slowed down her speech and projects more, since what she says has an important bearing on the comedy. Maria Grazia Affinito (Viva Zapata) gives a sensuous performance as a prostitute turned writer. Isabelle Ortega (Living Out, Anna in the Tropics) is delightful as the Cuban dancer Lily. She lightens up the action every time she appears on stage. Johnny Moreno (Picasso at the Lapin Agile) is effective as the Castro official Serafin, though he tends to race his words in the first act.

Displaced is a provocative play that could stand some more work. It seems to want to be many things. Is it the playwright's imagination of a play we are seeing, since Amador is writing a play called Displaced? Is it supposed to be a bedroom farce on the order of a Georges Feydeau comedy or an espionage thriller? You can take your pick.

Displaced plays the Marin Theatre, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley through June 11th. For tickets please call 415-388-5208 or online at www.marintheatre.org.

Marin Theatre will open its 2006-2007 season with Orson's Shadow on September 7th.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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