Psychosexual parenting of ‘Trainspotting’ proportions in ‘Se Llama Cristina’
A young man and a woman awake in a crappy motel room in a drug-induced haze to a blast of industrial music. A bassinet sits in the corner, empty except for a chicken drumstick.
They don’t know each other — or at least they don’t think they do. They don’t even know their own names. How did they get here? Do they have a baby together? And if so, what happened to it?
It’s the stuff of absurdist comedy — something, perhaps by Eugene Ionesco (whose The Chairs Kitchen Dog Theater produced earlier this season). But Se Llama Christina, also at Kitchen Dog, is anything but a comedy. It’s a puzzling, often violent character study of fringe-dwellers living lives of quiet (and sometimes quite loud) desperation. And as performed by the three principal actors (mostly unfamiliar to most Dallas audiences) — Israel Lopez and Vanessa DeSilvio as the man and woman, and Jeremy Schwartz as the roughneck who terrorizes them — you do care about what happens and how they got there.
The problem is the resolution of what’s going on is about as interesting and as prosaic as a public service announcement: Drugs are bad, addiction has consequences and even the best and most educated of people make poor life choices. Ho-hum — Trainspotting did the same 20 years ago.
This world premiere, from former Dallasite Octavio Solis (who tends to revel in oblique storytelling), jumps around its time-frame like an episode of The Twilight Zone, toggling between repressed (or suppressed) memories and drug-induced fantasies, rarely leaving you time to figure out which is which. For a while, the structure keeps you guessing, but ultimately the time travel conceit works against it, revealing itself to be essentially a didactic After-school Special about responsible parenting and the hazards of addiction — if it were directed by David Lynch. It’s as if Solis wrote this play as a substitute for sitting down with his kids and giving them a talk about drugs. Still, the cast is exceptionally good at what they do. (Samantha Rios, who has only one scene, delivers her lines so faintly over a droning musical backdrop that you have to strain to hear every word.
It’s unclear whether this is the play’s obtuseness or just an insecure performance.)
Nevertheless, there are some interesting directorial decisions by Christina Vela, including the use of a scrim behind which memories are projected and bits of sleight-of-hand that introduce props on to the bare stage without you noticing. Se Llama Cristina isn’t the best new play that Kitchen Dog has produced for its New Works Festival (of which this is only the mainstage production), but coming at the end of perhaps its best season ever, it’s a forgivable misstep.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 31, 2013.