INTAR Theatre may be the oldest English-language Latino theater in the U.S., but it continues to produce exciting new work. Maggie Bofill’s intense new one-act, Drawn and Quartered, is an excellent example. This (literally) colorful two-hander showcases the talents of two really fine actors, Liza Fernandez and José Joaquin Perez, who play Ana and Michael, a former couple re-connecting through a maze of uncertainties, hesitations, and anger.
Feeling bad that Michael, a struggling painter, is broke, Ana has hired her ex to paint their old apartment, where she still lives and which she’s thinking of selling. But what Michael actually does to the place is a shocker, setting in motion a roller coaster of accusations, recriminations, and desperate reachings-out during which her true motives for summoning him, and their true feelings after six months apart, alternately seep out and burst out through one long, achingly realized scene. Accompanied only by the well-timed offstage percussion sounds of Peter Davis Barr – which punctuate the emotions on display and allow the uncomfortable silences that characterize real-life emotional drama to occur on stage without risking a loss of focus – the pair roils through a series of breaking waves of emotion.
Much of the action happens through emotional excavations rather than external events, so summing up the “plot” would do little to convey the flavor of this poetic and rather brutal piece. Ms. Bofill’s script artfully threads the needle between self-conscious poetics and elemental feeling. Words are one of the play’s subjects – “you can’t own words,” Michael complains to Ana, who finds it too painful when he even addresses her by name. Yet she’s captivated by the blank space he’s left on the walls for an unrealized portrait of her. “Beautiful,” he describes her, “more beautiful than God.” But “you never think about how well you know certain walls…”
Michael talks about the stains on the walls he knows so well, and about feeling like a stain himself. Yet despite all his complaining – he’s lonely, he can’t paint – we feel for Ana even more. Less facile with words, more practical and outwardly “together,” she’s a wreck inside too. When some sort of terrifying mystical spirit takes her over at the end, it doesn’t make much sense, but it’s fun to see – and perhaps there was no more smooth ending possible for this jagged story. In any case it’s not an interruption, merely an unexpected and somewhat confusing coda.
Under the inventive direction of Lou Moreno the brave performances of Fernandez and Perez shine. Raul Abrego’s scenic design is a third star of the show, and Maria Cristina Fuste lights the action with evocative subtlety. The play runs under an hour but packs an outsized punch. Go see it! It runs through June 26 at INTAR’s theater, 500 W. 52 St., New York.
Photos by Carol Rosegg.