“King of Cuba”- Central Works

Central Works
Julia Morgan City Club
Berkeley, CA July 21, 2018

A serious comedy

Cristina Garcia’s novel “King of Cuba” deals with “the intransigencies on both sides of the political divide”(Garcia’s note)…the dictator of Cuba and his exiled enemies. Goya Herrera, a Miami octogenarian, is determined to return to the island and kill El Commandante. Both elderly gentlemen are ‘off’, full of fantasies and cruel memories.

Garcia says she “wrestles in a darkly comic satirical fashion” with both side. But, for this reviewer what emerges the hour-and a half performances is a set of gags. The show, despite its series subject, is played for comedy.

Except for Steve Ortiz (Goyo) and Maria Gomez (El Commandate), the rest of the cast plays multiple roles in multiple quick scene changes…so many, so fast, that it is sometimes hard to follow the plot. The room is small and sound bounces off and around so that voices are drowned out and the jokes don’t come across, although the audience laughed and laughed. Some jokes are funny; others are just ironic and bizarre.

For example, Ben Ortega, as a street hustler (among several other roles) plays up to various characters to suggest that Cuba is a place where tourist come for ‘action’ of all sorts. Some of these scenes are charming; others are just not funny. Others in the cast are Elaine Garrity, Leticia Durate and Marco Aponte. They are to be congratulated on their ability to change character and costumes in swift succession.

Sometimes it’s a bit confusing to the audience as to who they are next. Carlos Caro accompanied the dramatic moments with great percussion sound. As the show settles down in its future weeks, let’s hope that all this lively action and the lines become clear and truly dramatic as it is intended to be.

Garcia’s script was directed by Gary Graves.

Joanna G. Harris