Audience: Peter Lehman

Jun

Houses Without Walls

A great and provocative one act play situated between generations, mothers and daughters, painful pasts and imagined presents, a divided room on an insular island and another on another mainland, all separated by emigration and a political history more evoked than explicitly foregrounded. Some of this context sticks to words like the swampy lagoon somewhere nearby, or cries out in the sudden dangerous departure by boat, a scenario linked in the play's bill to Cuba's Mariel boatlift of 1980, but evocative of many other precarious crossings into a hoped-for future free from the violence, repression, or poverty that conditions the flight. The strange monologues-dialogue of the two apparently "mad" mothers is itself reminiscent of the fearful old couple in Virgilio Piñera's 1968 Dos viejos pánicos, another play seemingly dissociated from its immediate Cuban context, but it is less fear than shared pain and longing that at times brings these two agonists together through the wall, just as their own daughters echo and return in their mind to the mothers and lives they have left behind. The imaginative map that Rodríguez Drissi draws between these two rooms across water and time is layered, cantankerous and touching, a bermuda triangle and a floating memory of a land connected by its separations. This is a play I would see a second time.

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