February 2008

Madre (written and directed by Beatriz Pizano)
presented by Aluna Theatre
Jan. 29 – Feb. 17, 2008 Theatre Passe Muraille Toronto
Memory Projections
by David Fujino
Julia is in her early 70's.

She talks to her mother, Anna, and her late husband, Jorge, as they appear in the tilted mirror in her apartment. Then she loses track of what she's saying, and yesterday and today become a blur.

Julia is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's, which she shrugs off as not so bad.

But as she sinks deeper into dementia, her estranged daughter Angela — separated from her mother for over 20 years — arrives from Toronto, Canada, to care for her and form a healthier bond.

This meeting of a mother and daughter opens up playwright Pizano's varied concerns about aging and memory, memory and identity, family, mothers, and historical memory.

The only 'problem' — in a play which is otherwise well-written, well acted, and well-designed (Daniel Arcé's video work is quite brilliant) — the problem is that setting the play during Colombia's 40-year civil war never achieves focus; and, at play's end, the audience doesn't know any more about Colombian politics and the war than when they first entered. The same could be said for the stories about Jorge, the young Julia, or Angela's life in Canada, or the female Doctor. We don't find out more.

But thankfully, the true focus and anchor of the play is Julia, and Marcia Bennett's remarkably unaffected and natural interpretation of Julia was both emotionally satisfying and a pleasure to behold.

Carlos-Gonzalez-Vio & Rosa Laborde
Then by the second half of the play — when Angela and Julia share a bottle of wine and their conversation turns personal — Angela is brought to tears, and at that moment the audience sees a daughter under the influence of a mother.

The cast was uniformly solid and watchable and their expressions ranged from Marcia Bennett's light-spirited Julia and Anita La Selva's concerned Angela, to Carlos Gonzalez-Vio's mannish Jorge and the voluptuous Young Julia of Rosa LaBorde, to Rosalba Martinni's Anna and mean-spirited Doctor, and Juliette Burgos as Leonila and a professional Receptionist.

In this play about memory, identity, and the loss of memory, the impressive use of mirrors and overhead screens brought us up close to an actor's emotions.

In the scene where a young Julia speaks to the older Julia off stage right, there simultaneously looms a large video close-up of young Julia's face.

It was memorable.

Marcia Bennett — Julia
Carlos Gonzalez-Vio — Jorge
Rosa LaBorde — Young Julia
Anita La Selva — Angela
Rosalba Martinni — Anna, Doctor
Juliette Burgos — Receptionist; Leonila
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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