Originally published in SunPost on March 17,2011
Having written about Spanish-language theater in Miami for almost 10 years, I have waited a long time to see Spanish and English on stage together in a way that is as complex, dynamic, and fluid as it is in the daily life of this city. At last! It was exciting to watch Carlos Caballero and Elizabeth Doud take the stage at the Miami Made Here and Now Festival presented by the Arsht Center and Miami Light Project. An excerpt of their work-in-progress, Si Vas a Sacar un Cuchillo, USAlo (If You’re going to Pull a Knife, Use it) gave flesh to the word bilingual, and it revealed a glimpse into the theatrical future Miami’s two native languages could have if they were allowed to share the same stage every once in awhile.
The excerpt that debuted at the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater revealed the characters and the essential loneliness they share. Caballero is Sisyphus incarnate (just replace the gigantic boulder with environmental disaster). He dons a workman’s jumpsuit blackened by dirt, oil, and labor. His face is smeared with soot and each work boot seems to be made of lead as he hauls a net littered with dirty blackened plastic bottles on stage. Elizabeth Doud’s siren has a contemporary twist. Sporting a long blonde wig and white face and body paint, the alabaster mermaid tethered to a bleached-out plastic inner tube and palm tree appears weakened and anemic.
These costumes and minimalist props convey the piece’s planet-in-peril message clearly, but it’s Beckett who sets the mood. Caballero and Doud have pieced the performance’s text together from three plays by Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot, End Game, and Not I. The text is delivered by Caballero in Spanish and Doud in English. If you’re going to carve your text from the cannon, who better to borrow from than Beckett. The syncopated rhythm and relentless lament of his prose is powerfully delivered by Caballero, a seasoned stage performer. While Doud’s energy and emotion is palpable, I felt that vocally, she is still in search of her character’s persona. Also having seen Doud’s enigmatic and often sardonic presence as a dancer, I longed to see more movement and physicality in her mermaid.
The texts in Spanish and English are thankfully not volleyed back and forth in simultaneous translation style and there are no supertitles. Instead, the glaring contrast between the two speakers — male/female, dark/light, clean/dirty — serves to book end a fascinating dialogue between languages.
In the long run, sticking only to Beckett might homogenize the play’s more contemporary quirky nuances (she’s an out of work Disney character actress and he’s an unemployed oil platform worker), but this is work in progress worth following. The fully developed version will premiere in June at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium.