Produced by Creation Art Center and Maroma Players and presented in Teatro en Miami's intimate studio space in Little Havana, La visita de la vieja dama (The Old Lady's Visit), is director Rolando Moreno's adaptation from the original by Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt.
This Spanish-language version of the 1956 tragicomedy is set in an unnamed Latin American town. In the opening scene, the town's colonel (Cristian Ocón), doctor (Reinaldo González), priest (Mario Martín), and Clara's old sweetheart, Bartolo (Jorge Hernández), wait for her during a harsh storm.
The characters and dismal set design echo the swampy, small-town intrigue of Gabriel García Marquez's Macondo (in One Hundred Years of Solitude). They also raise expectations for dramatic plot twists, and The Visit delivers. In no time, the old lady shows up, bejeweled and embittered.
Clara's mother was a prostitute and her father was a drunk, but the biggest blow came from her first love, Bartolo, who abandoned her to marry a woman with money. Unbeknown to Bartolo, the young Clara was pregnant. To survive, Clara left town, gave up her baby, and became a prostitute-gold digger extraordinaire. She returns 45 years later and offers the impoverished town a fortune for the murder of Bartolo.
What follows is a moralistic tale of greed, but the harshly drawn characters prevent The Visit from being more psychologically rich and engaging.
One moment, Clara and Bartolo stroll arm in arm, reminiscing about their adolescent trysts. The next minute Clara is ordering Bartolo's execution. Bartolo is a humble old man in scruffy work clothes who is stunned to learn that she was pregnant with his child. It's hard to hate him.
Clara's ire is more potent when she levels it at the town's hypocritical citizens. For this reason, there's a firecracker chemistry with the hilarious Cristian Ocón, who spews pompous, flatulent speeches only to be chopped down by Clara's sharp, dry quips. Clara is portrayed with verve and humor by García.
The talented Jorge Hernández portrays the fascinating middle ground between Bartolo's fear of death and his guilt for his youthful transgressions. He is also compelling in the play's final scene when he reconciles with his fate.
In Durrenmatt's original, Bartolo denied the paternity and bribed two guards to say they slept with Clara. This seems an important key to Clara's rage and Bartolo's flawed character. Despite the top-notch troupe of actors, some of the play's psychological depth seems to have been lost in Moreno's
IF YOU GO What: ''La visita de la vieja dama'' by Friedrich Dürrenmatt Where: Teatro en Miami Studio, 2500 SW Eighth St., Miami, through May 23 When: 8:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday Cost: $20 Info: 305-551-7473 or http://www.teatroenmiamistudio.com/