Graciela Rodríguez has traveled north from Montevedeo, Uraguay, to perform in two shows as part of the Fiesta del Teatro Hispano (the Celebration of Hispanic Theater) sponsored by Arlington’s Teatro de la Luna at Theatre II in the Gunston Arts Center.
She hasn't traveled alone, bringing with her an imperious classical actress, a whiny little old lady and a determined tourist who wouldn’t even consider climbing in to those tiny passages in the Great Pyramid of Cheops, but who wants to be photographed looking as if she’s climbing out after a tour of the King’s Chamber.
Although she arrived with a collection of characters, Rodríguez only needed one passport with one visa — she plays all those characters and quite a few more in her one act solo show, "Como Rellanar un Bikini Salvaje" which means "How to Fill a Wild Bikini."
The play, however, has nothing to do with the female form and certainly isn’t about a "wild bikini." Instead, it is a play about an actress, who as they say in the theater "goes up on her lines." She can’t remember what the next word she’s supposed to deliver might be. So she launches into a stream-of-consciousness monologue about the things that have been bothering her.
What’s bothering her? The people in the audience who are staring at her. She tries to humanize them by imagining what their lives must be like. The lady on the aisle seems to be a cringing old woman — what if she were in analysis? What would she tell her analyst?
This lengthens out into an excursion through the mind of that cringing old lady. Pretty soon Rodríguez makes a transition into being the old lady’s sister who is traveling in Egypt and throws a bit of a fit over the tight spaces in the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Then she’s the woman’s analyst, and then the analyst’s daughter.
The rapid switch from character to character calls for the actress to make clear to the audience just who she is at each moment. No one character has an uninterrupted segment of more than a few minutes in this hour and a half show.
Rodríguez is a pleasure to watch as she goes through these motions, although the quick views of each character make it difficult to get much depth into the portrayal of any one of them. The fun here is in watching the actress at work, not in getting to know much about what makes any one particular character tick.
THE TEXT IS in Spanish, but the show is made accessible to those who either don’t speak Spanish — or who don’t have the fluency needed to follow this wordy text — via a simultaneous translation into English available through earphones provided free.
In either language, is a testament to Rodríguez's skill at creating different postures and varying her body and spoken language that every character is distinct from the next.
The show, which runs through this weekend, is the first of a three show celebration of Hispanic theater being sponsored by Teatro de la Luna at the Gunston Arts Center’s Theatre II. Starting next week, Rodríguez will appear in Omar Varela’s "Suelta, Ardiente y Peligrosa (On the Loose, Hot and Dangerous)" and then, from November 9 to the 18th, the Bojiganga Theater Company of Mexico will perform "Romina y el Bellini (Romina and the Circus Bellini)" written and directed by Alejandro Velis.
Brad Hathaway reviews theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland as well as Broadway, and edits Potomac Stages, a Web site covering theater in the region (www.PotomacStages.com). He can be reached at Brad@PotomacStages.com.