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Barceloneta, at Night

Javierantonio Gonzales, translated by Arlene Martinez
Part of the Casa Latin American Theatre Festival
Union Theatre, Southwark
(2008)

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Barceloneta, at Night is an Ortonesque black comedy that brings a rare taste of Puerto Rico to Southwark.

The absurd comedy is supplemented by influences that include South American Magic Realism, gay cabaret and even a good dose of soap opera. All this is crammed into a very full hour under the direction of translator Arlene Martinez.

The central character says little and even that is not understood by his devoted servants/carers. He is a 97-year-old Nazi called Hans who might just be Hitler but then this is play in which a drag Marlene Dietrich and roller-blading German Professor (Gergo Danka) appear to be societal archetypes.

The surrounding characters all add colour, if not always much meaning. Enthusiastic Brina (Agnes Brekka) might be the old man's daughter and certainly becomes an object of his lust, even if she cannot force life-shortening pork between his lips.

Federico (Robert Carragher) appears to control the household and would like the old man dead but not until he has written the right kind of will. He loves Doctor Camillo (Daniel Curshen) who seems to have grown tired of their affair. Finally, there is a gardener Jorge (Miguel Oyarzon) who, along with a statue of Our Lady (Marlene Dietrich, not the other one) seems a likely candidate to do away with Hans.

Mix all of that lot together and you get a sometimes confusing but periodically funny comedy, spiced up by an intercom system that wittily goes on and off at the whim of the characters.

Barceloneta has the feel of an authentic sample of South American theatre and culture today and has enough quirky charm to warrant a visit, especially as it is accompanies two other plays from South America, of which more later in the week.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher