The Day You'll Love Me
Jose Ignacio Cabrujas
Jose Ignacio Cabrujas is little known here but in Venezuela was a well-known playwright, director and screenwriter.
The Day You’ll Love Me (El dia que me quieras) premièred in Caracas in 1979 directed by the author (who also played Pio) and had a British production at Hampstead Theatre in 1990.
In this revival, Venezuelan Marco Aponte, seen in several recent Theatro Technis productions, appears as Pio, a role he has already played in New York in 2001. Fellow Venezuelan Christofer Alcala and Guido Garcia from Uruguay also join British actors in the international casting that is typical of Technis productions.
British actors using accents to blend with native ones may give a Venezuelan flavour but makes some of the dialogue difficult to decipher, especially when delivered as rapidly as some of these performers manage, but the energy of their acting carries the play forward.
It is set in Venezuela’s capital Caracas in 1935, a time when the country was still under the US supported dictatorship of General Gómez, and presents a family seeking escape from the life they are living, hoping at least for something better.
For unmarried 35-year-old Maria Luisa, that hope lies in selling the family home and emigration: to go to Russia with Pio Miranda, the man with whom for ten years she’s been in love, and start a farm in the Ukraine. He’s praising Comrade Stalin and the USSR when the play opens; she seems to follow without real understanding. An impoverished aristocrat who has never worked, she has no knowledge of agriculture. Where would she fit in this vision?
While on the one hand Cabrujas does seem to be offering a critique of capitalism and a genuine socialist agenda, there is an obvious irony in Pio’s idea of Stalin, for he wrote long after the dictator was discredited, while the return of capitalism to the East adds poignancy to his illusion. However, the play is less about political ideology and more about frustration and the way we cling to hope regardless.
Maria Luisa’s relationship with Pío seems a strange one: ten years together yet she says she has never seen a man naked. Her sister Elvira was married but her husband left her. The air is heavy with frustration. Sophia Kounourias’s Maria Luisa’s shows it in neurotic rushing around and frantic conversation and Yvonne Wickham’s Elvira talks of taking a candle to bed with her.
Argument over Maria Luisa leaving (and Pío won’t delay) is replaced by excitement over the coming concert by international star tango singer Guido Garcia. The whole household is thrilled about it, including younger brother Placido (Christopher Alcala, bouncing with enthusiasm, far from placid!) and niece Matilde (Rachael Lopez). When Guido Garcia turns up like a deus ex machina they are all ecstatic.
George Eugeniou’s production is simply staged but uses the wide space of the theatre including its upper windows. While basically naturalistic, there is an element of the surreal in the wide placing, in the way political points are chalked up on a wall, the women stretch out on a table offering their bodies and throw themselves at Garcia’s feet, clasping his calves. It is a theatricalisation that turns ideas into indoctrination, makes feelings physical, but it is insufficiently assimilated and it jars.
Gardel’s manager (Mark Minshall) brings champagne and the romantic dream is summed up in the song that is the highlight of his concert (and from which the play takes its title) creating a moment for the household to remember. What follows when the communist has deserted the woman to whom he has already lied, the singer moved on despite his erotic gallantry? What is left?
Can one still read the red flag with its hammer and sickle that Maria Luisa discovers as a symbol of hope or does history make it one of hopelessness? Perhaps there was something I missed, submerged under accents and fast delivery, that would provide an answer but I think Cabrujas intended his final image as a challenge, especially as this production presents it.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton