In association with
By EDUARDO MACHADO
November 11, 2003 – January 18, 2004
Directed by MICHAEL JOHN GARCÉS
Sets ANTJE ELLERMAN
Costumes ELIZABETH HOPE CLANCY
Lighting KIRK BOOKMAN
Sound DAVID M. LAWSON
Original Music JOSÉ CONDE
Wigs and Makeup MARISA DeTERESA
Stage Manager SUSAN D. LANGE
Press Representative SPRINGER/CHICOINE PUBLIC RELATIONS
Maggie Bofill – Zabryna Guevara – Jason Madera
Jason Quarles – Nilaja Sun
Set on a mansion in Cuba, and spanning in time from 1958 to 1997, Eduardo Machado’s THE COOK tells the tale of Castro’s revolution from the perspective of one household. With action that spans time, but told from the site of one abandoned mansion that has essentially stayed frozen in the virtual time of 1958, this interesting play has the unique quality of conveying, and quite effectively, both the macrocosm of global political machinations and the microcosm of what can only be termed domestic politics, or those occurring within the home.
Replete with cultural controversy, political treatise, and plain old domestic despair, the play also has the charming distinction of featuring almost constant and detailed cooking onstage that adds nuance and an irreplaceable layer of depth and theatrical sophistication to the production. What THE COOK is very successful at is reminding the audience that the politics of Cuba are merely circumstantial in the day-to-day lives of the people who have lived there since the earliest days of Castro. Time marches on, and politics isolate the island, yet, still, dinner must be served.
In the opening scene of THE COOK, as Batista and his followers plan to leave Cuba in the wake of Castro’s ascent, we find ourselves in the kitchen of a wealthy household on New Year’s Eve. The lady of the house, Adria (Maggie Bofill) laments the absence of her husband to the cook, Gladys (Zabryna Guevara), whom, on many superficial levels, seems to be a trusted confidant. Apparently, Gladys believes this too. For, when Adria sneaks out in the middle of her own party, she shares her secret with Gladys, and asks her to care for the home until she returns. Gladys never leaves. Adria departs in 1958. When her daughter, Lourdes (also played by Ms. Bofill), visits in 1997, Gladys is still hard at work in the kitchen. Time has passed, politics have changed, and the character at the center of THE COOK, once faced with the harsh reality that she has waited and toiled needlessly, even after so much time, is still strong enough to adapt to the change and take charge.
When the play opens, Adria plays with time, attempting to delay the coming of the New Year so that her husband can spend it with her. Of course, he never arrives, and with Adria’s departure time seemingly stands still in the mansion as Gladys waits, and waits, and waits. Over the years that THE COOK spans, we see Gladys’ husband, Carlos (Jason Madera), once the chauffeur, rise to become a member of Castro’s government. He takes a lover with whom he has a child (Nilaja Sun), belittles Gladys, and even makes her choose between the life of her cousin (Jason Quarles) and the life she has made for herself. In the end, he is again by her side. These are the details of their lives. Here, they are so well played that it is as if we, the audience, are eavesdropping on some very personal moments. It is like looking into the snapshots in time, taken at random, of any family over the course of so many years. So times are up, and some are down, but they are always real.
An example of the power of combining good writing, fine direction, strong acting, and solid production values, THE COOK is viable theater. Partly political, largely a tale of domestic unrest, but purely theatrical, this production is a prime example of creativity at work.
- Kessa De Santis -