Friday, September 24, 2010

What's Underneath Florenica Lozano's "Bed"?

The term "magical realism" refers to an artistic piece that incorporates fantastical elements into realistic circumstances.  This inclusion underlies an emotional and/or political message that allows the viewer to be impacted and have a heightened dramatic experience that s/he may not ordinarily absorb from a down-to-earth linear story.  Great authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and Laura Esquivel, have all incorporated facets of magical realism into their literary works with great success.  Following in the vein of these prolific storytellers comes Florencia Lozano and her dramatic new play, "underneathmybed."

The play centers on the Jiminez family, living in a Boston suburb on March 1, 1982.  Pre-adolescent daughter Daisy introduces us into this world where there exists much arguing, strife, resentment, and tension.  Her father Esteban is constantly expounding to his daughters (and anyone who crosses his path) of the violent atrocities occurring in Argentina which led to the family fleeing to the United States.  Young Daisy hears about these detailed acts of violence and consequently has nightmares and vivid fantasies of such traumas being committed against her.  She is terrified of what is under the bed, around the corner, behind the stairwell, to the point of being unable to sleep, eat, or control spontaneous vomiting.  "I can't stop the bad thoughts," she shares, as she constantly fears being attacked. That, combined with the normal fears and challenges of becoming a teenager, has led Daisy to become one stressed out and emotional kid!

Suddenly noises are heard by others in the house.  Strange scratching, unexpected sounds.  Is there really a child hiding under the sink, or is Tia Toti just feeding a cat?  Is the girl Daisy sees under the bed real, or a manifestation of the trauma and fear that pervades her country of origin and her current home? As tensions and anger mount, so does Daisy's panic, and the play visually and psychologically offers resolutions in unexpected and surprising ways.

Bringing magical realism to a stage setting is risky business, and it would not work here if it were not for the fascinating script by Florencia Lozano (Téa on OLTL), and the beautiful direction by Pedro Pascal.  The play offers stunning effects that illuminate and deepen Daisy's emotional terror, and it is a testament to Lozano's dialogue and Pascal's vision that the story unfolds as gracefully and beautifully as it does. The fact that the piece was inspired by real-life events in Lozano's childhood no doubt adds depth and relevance to it's painful subject matter. 

Ultimately, the play raises more questions than it answers.  What does it mean to live in a prison cell of your own thoughts? How do you define the term "dictator" under your own roof? What does real "torture" look like? And what sacrifices are demanded of teenage girls in order to survive?

S.A.S.S. - Short Attention Soap Summary

WHAT IS IT: "underneathmybed," a new Off-Broadway play written by Florencia Lozano (Téa on OLTL), at the Rattlestick Theatre (224 Waverly Place), playing Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3pm, and Mondays at 8 p.m.

WHY SOAP FANS WILL LOVE IT:  Complex family relationships, in which each member's actions and reactions effect one another, used to be a staple of daytime soaps.  ONE LIFE fans will especially appreciate seeing glimpses of young Florencia Lozano in Daisy.

BOTTOM LINE: If you ever felt like you have had to compromise or disavow parts of yourself in order to survive, you will appreciate the themes in this show.  Heck, anyone who has ever been angry with their parents will love this show!

VERDICT: Don't wait for this show to hide underneath the Off-Broadway bed.  It only runs until October 16th, so buy your tickets now. 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."

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