Vanessa Aspillaga, Maria Cellario, Matthew Dellapina, Audrey Esparza, Vivia Font, Charles Goforth, Yetta Gottesman, Paula Pizzi, Marina Pulido, Ed Trucco
Florencia Lozano’s new play underneathmybed squanders some great performances, an interesting premise, and a great deal of time before petering out with barely a whimper. Now on stage at the Rattlestick Theater, underneathmybed is a show burdened with a concept that renders it incomprehensible to much of the audience. Significant portions of this show, dealing with the Argentine Dirty War of the 70s and 80s through the eyes of a family that fled to the United States, are conducted in Spanish. Stylistically, it is a wonderful choice and heightens the tension embodied by these characters. In practice, it puts the play out of reach to anyone who is not at least marginally bilingual.
The language barrier is made all the more frustrating because audience members who did speak Spanish laughed and reacted to scenes that were impenetrable to the rest of the audience. The promotional materials give no indication that Spanish was a requirement to fully understand or enjoy this show. Within the confines of an English-only experience, underneathmybed was a rather a bust.
The understandable portion of the show deals with the three daughters of an intellectual and political refuge from Argentina during the time of the Military Junta. The father left Argentina to escape anticipated persecution, only to grow increasingly offended by Americas ignorance and apathy towards the current events taking place in Argentina. Ed Trucco plays the father with a cold fury, but his performance is ultimately undermined by his one-note character until a late and jarring change.
The mother, Lizbel, is elegantly played by Paula Pizzi. Ms. Pizzi shifts effortlessly between the familys varying demands of caregiver, sounding board, sexual partner and peacemaker. Nearly all of the conversations with her husband are in Spanish, and with her daughters take place in English, but she manages to convey the emotion of the story within these confines.
The interplay between these two great actors is almost entirely in Spanish, which is both frustrating and annoying.
Of the three daughters, Daisy is the youngest and is played by Vanessa Aspillaga. We recollect the events through her eyes. Daisy isnt given a lot to do save for whimpering and whining. Daisys character development seems limited to the opening of her eyes wider and wider in fear. It is a bit of a waste of this actress, who addresses the audience at the start of the show and is quite winning.
Her fear is the product of her fathers detailed recounting of the Argentine governments attacks on her people, including women and children. Her fear is realized in tableaus visible only to her (and the audience). But the effect of the torture is mitigated since it is only seen by the daughter and suggests that perhaps Daisy is just crazy. For the audience, the torture scenes are so frequent that it is numbing.
This complicated story and cast is ably directed by Pedro Pascal, who keeps the story moving through this introspective work.