Review Rundown: Se Llama Cristina

la_weekly_logo_265x70Se Llama Cristina belongs to a school of theater that discomfits as much as it gentles. At once gritty and highly lyrical, Boston Court’s handling keeps the audience almost permanently off-balance. Christensen’s performance merges vulnerable physicality with fury, but we never quite know whether to take her at her word. Huen’s good-guy act always threatens to slip on his love of the bottle, and Rummel’s buffoonery alternates with a quicksilver brutality.

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pasadena_star_logo“Se Llama Cristina” references the one character who, though the subject, is not on the stage: the baby they fear and anticipate. Performing this play without a break keeps the flow of the dream going. And it doesn’t stop when you leave. Like any fine work of art, it will keep on offering sudden realizations for weeks to come.

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kcrwThe play opens with two bodies writhing on the floor. A man. A woman. It seems vaguely sexual but also violently abstract. As the limbs and the text come into sharper focus, we discover that this couple is coming out of a drug addled haze, or maybe they’re still in it. The man looks down horrified to discover a needle still in his arm – an image all the more haunting given the news of recent days.

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2010-08-25 THR SketchPragmatically organized by the Boston Court as the third of three sequential individual premiere productions by Magic Theatre in San Francisco and Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas, the previous presentations of Se Llama Cristina were naturalistically realized, and director Robert Castro has instead taken this one in a radically different direction: abstract, austere, distilled and concentrated. Its deliberately focused intensity highlights some of the play’s originality in spasms of unalloyed mental agony while scanting motivations and causing jarring shifts, all intended but only some of which are successfully effective.

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artsinlaAt eye level for audience members in the front rows, a fluorescent bulb shines outward, diminishing our ability to see the actors and even completely barring our view of them when they’re prone. On the upstage wall, a slightly dimmer fluorescent band seems to delineate landscapes of the Southwest. The rest of the visible lighting plot blasts white light on the actors and the front rows. Can Solis and the actors engage us after all this? They can and do. We humans are a mess, often unaware of our potential, let alone our identities. Yet, out of the darkness of this play, at its very last moments, Solis posits hope and optimism.

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latimes1The performers submit to the emotional demands of Solis’ relentlessly boisterous 80-minute script, but the sound and fury are more exhausting than edifying. The experience is akin to having a front row seat at the presentation of a stranger’s nonsensical bad dream.

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stage-and-cinema-small-square-box-jpgSomewhat similarly to Sartre’s No Exit, two strangers awaken in an unfamiliar place from which there is no apparent escape. The area of their imprisonment is marked by a suspended horizontal steel rectangle lit on all sides by fluorescent tubes which turn on and off at moments unrelated to anything happening on stage.

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2 responses to “Review Rundown: Se Llama Cristina

  1. My wife and I saw “Se Llama Cristina” this past weekend, and I think Charles McNulty’s review in yesterday’s LA Times is right on the money. I found the play and its production confusing in a way that made it more frustrating and annoying than intriguing and thought provoking. There are nagging questions that interfered with my ability to enjoy this play. Why do the Man and Woman act like they’re trapped inside some mysterious chamber if they are apparently just in some squalid apartment? Who was the Girl who suddenly appeared, and how did she abruptly pop up inside their apartment? What was the point of the raised and lowered fluorescent lights and those conspicuous high double doors that are never used for any purpose other than to be lit up? Being challenged and left thinking about issues is one thing, but this was more like watching somebody’s jumbled nightmare. At the conclusion, I applauded the actors for their energy, but my main emotion was relief that it was over so I could leave.

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    • Thank you for sharing your opinion. It means a lot to us that you were willing to do so.

      One of the most important criteria in selecting a play is the challenging nature of it (in text, content, presentation, etc.) There are times when people are offended, confused, thrilled, satisfied, unsatisfied, anger, uplifted…. This is why we come to see live theater. There are no easy answers. The most we can hope for is the promotion of dialogue. Obviously this play left you unsatisfied in the end. That happens sometimes. I hope it won’t stop you from seeing another play here at Boston Court in the future.
      -Brian (the marketing guy)

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