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A CurtainUp Review

Faith, Hope & Charity
By Brad Bradley

Mizan Nunes
(Photo: Carol Rosegg )
Faith, Hope & Charity announces in its advertising that it concerns "three Cuban women [who] cast their fate to the high seas on a makeshift raft. Only Oshun’s divine intervention can save them." The three women of the play’s title are described as "Faith, A Mulatto Woman," "Hope,“A White Woman," and "Charity, A Black Woman." Oshun is described as “"the Goddess of Love in the Santeria Pantheon, ruling over the rivers." The appearance of Oshun may be a figment of the women’s imaginations, or the imagination of author Alberto Pedro, who may be receiving his non-Cuban dramatic debut with the current production. The counter-revolutionary nature of this play leaves one to wonder about his safety as he continues to live in that country.

The production opens with the seemingly exhausted women sleeping atop a realistic raft floating in the ocean as supported by inner tubes, with little aboard but a few harnessed crates, a pole with a modest sail, and a barrel. Atmospheric music sets a realistic tone, and crescendos into a storm. Faith (Ms. Delgado) speaks the first line, "I don’t think this is real!" Her words presage the script’s actual approach to drama, which quickly loses the misleading realism of the extended tableau that greets the entering audience. Once I realized that realism had been dispensed with, I found myself wondering why the creakiness of the raft boards hadn’t been eliminated as well, for that persistent sound weakened both the focus and fantasy of the play.

Unfortunately, the play’s weaknesses go deeper, for much of the dialogue of these women who presumably are trying to escape Cuba falls flat. Worse, the director has all three racially symbolic women, as well as the actress playing the fantasy goddess, shout far too many of their lines. As a result, whatever poetic quality or meaning exists in the script gets lost in tiresome arguments among people who can’t get along.

At one point I had hopes that the goddess figure (alluringly played by Mizan Nunes) was paralleling the challenging specter-like host of Sartre’s trio of banished souls in No Exit. But writer Pedro’s characters don’t seem to learn anything, to even meaningfully respond to their trials and the play fails whether seen as a fantasy or as a conventional drama of conflict.

Perhaps the most resonant character for local audiences is Hope, played by Maria Cellario. While the script tells us Hope is "a sensitive, thoughtful atheist", she nevertheless comes across as a blasé New Yorker. Dana Manno as Charity is primarily memorable for her hysteria. Director Ferra, his accomplished credentials notwithstanding, seems to have given up on this play in rehearsal.

My dissatisfaction with the production was underscored by the venue’s total lack of ventilation, leaving me relieved that a companion had begged off with an erratic cough. Surely the ailment would have worsened at INTAR 53.

Faith, Hope & Charity
Presented by INTAR Hispanic American Arts Center and Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre
Written by Alberto Pedro
English version by Caridad Svich
Directed by Max Ferra
Cast: Maria Cellario, Judith Delgado, Dana Manno, Mizan Nunes, and Nicole Kovacs.
Set Design: Van Santvoord
Costume Design: Ali Turns
Lighting Design: Chris Dallos
Sound Design: David M. Lawson
Original music: Marc Anthony Thompson
Running time: approximately one hour (no intermission).
> INTAR 53 Theatre, 508 West 53rd Street 212/279-4200.
5/30/03-6/29/03; opening 6/05/03
Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8; Saturdays and Sundays at 3.
Reviewed by Brad Bradley, based on June 5th opening night performance

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