Thursday, March 5, 2020

"Don't Eat the Mangos" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

A beautifully written and deeply felt drama, Ricardo Pérez González's "Don't Eat the Mangos" carries a deep secret in the title, but we don't find out about it until the end. The show is so perfectly realized, with actors, set, lights and music working as one well-oiled unit, it is hard to believe we have just seen the World Premiere.

Three daughters and their mother are nursing dying Dad in their small home outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The daughters, late 30s into their 40s, argue about whose chingada turn it is to change the chingada bedpan. The stage directions get it right: "The three sisters greet each other as sisters do, that is to say a blend of familiar affection and loathing."

Ismelda, the oldest, has remained home to care for her parents while Yinoelle and Wicha have left to form their own families. Yetta Gottesman gives Ismelda some strong Eldest-Child Syndrome, which is to say she tries to call all the shots. But she is suffering from a terrible past, of which no one else is aware. Middle daughter Yinoelle (Elena Estér) is the buffer between Ismelda and Wicha (Marilet Martínez) whose incapacity to tell a lie eventually uncovers the secret of the mangos. All three sisters are beautifully realized, as is Wilma Bonet's strong but fading Mami. (Did we mention Mami is dying of cancer?)

Papi is played by veteran actor Julian Lòpez Morillas, whose broken-English laments are punctuated by a bronchial cough that we could feel from Row C.

So Papi is near death, Mami is dying and what is going to happen next? Observe Mami's body language below.

The set by Tanya Orellana allows action to flow between the dining table and the room where Papi's hospital bed has been placed. Chris Lundahl's lights give us hurricane flashes as well as subtle auras of discovery. If we could find fault with David Mendizábal's direction, we would, but we can't. Everything works in this show.

RATINGS ☼  ☼  ☼  ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants "Don't Eat the Mangos" Four Stars. It is excellent the way it is and can only get better. One caveat is that a significant part of the banter between the four women is in Puerto Rican Spanish. We got most of it, but it probably would be better to sit in the center section where you can see their lips move. Section C seats find action at the end blocked by the actors. There! I KNEW I could find something to complain about.

Sit in the middle. Go see this show.

"Don't Eat the Mangos"
The Magic Theatre
Fort Mason, Building D, San Francisco
Through Mar. 22

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