Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mexico City"/"Sailing Down The Amazon"

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"Mexico City"
"Sailing Down The Amazon"

Both by Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro
Directed by Danny Gidron

Lighting Design by Amy Lee
Stage Manager Jessica Martin

In Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro's excellent play for one woman, the incomparable Bobbie Steinbach plays a seventy-year-old actress "Sailing Down The Amazon". Bits of her life drift by her mind as she sits chatting with an invisible younger woman in a second deck-chair, checking with a mischievous finger under his nose whether the husband next to her is sleeping, or dead. She is sardonically witty, dealing unwillingly with some medical bad news, and since it is Millennium Eve it is her past or disturbing present, not any future, that concerns her most.

There is a low rasp to Steinbach's voice, and music even in her pauses. She admits to "glitches" and occasionally repeats herself, but her reflections and comments are unflinchingly direct and honest. Until Amy Lee's lighting ends the play with a fireworks display, this woman named "Rima" sails, relaxed but unwilling, toward her destiny, step by step revealing everything. Alfaro's play will, I'm sure, have a long life.

"Mexico City", her very different venture to foreign climes, has a Japanese theater director (Jennifer Sun) fall suddenly and briefly in love with an English expatriate (Derry Woodhouse) teaching his native language in that city. Their affair proceeds to the bedroom, though it is largely conversational. They both come, he says, from tight little island empire-centers that dictate their personality-traits. Lovers from each of their pasts crop up as obstacles. Neither feels they'd be comfortable trying to live in the other's country. She drives much too fast and dangerously. Neither seems particularly enthusiastic about Mexico. (Juan Luis Acevedo plays all the Mexicans --- an upppity waiter, a jet-setting businessman, and a professional panhandler in a bear-suit --- but these are mere local color.)

The pairs exchanges, however, skate over the surface of things, leaving the interplay of emotions and reactions to subtexts supplied by the actors' attitudes. Danny Gidron, who directed both these plays, has done what the stage can to fill in the backgrounds for the many short scenes, two in a car and one in a sumptuous garden (they say) and several in bed, and the actors do invoke a kind of touristy amusement in the post-cards they say they're walking through. Neither seems terribly attached to anything, including one another.

It seemed to me that this play would be happier as a short-story that could be read and absorbed in silence. Even in bed, the pair of actors seemed to me more chatty than passionate, as though they were as temporarily in love as they turn out to be in Mexico. I felt a distance from them, just as they felt a distance from each other. Reactions, of course, may vary.


"Mexico City"/"Sailing Down The Amazon" (4, 5, 8, 10 & 11 March)
Boston Women On Top Festival
Boston Playwrights' Theatre, 949 Commomnwealth Avenue, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide