Review: “Seven Spots on the Sun”
War cripples people’s bodies and souls and it’s unclear if it is possible to truly recover from its horrors. Seven Spots on the Sun, written by Martín Zimmerman (On The Exhale), fearlessly faces the cruelties of war, presenting both a criminal and a survivor as human beings, tangled in their own delusions and dreams. After all, both of them are victims of political games and personal ambitions.
In a fictional Latin-American village, locals are recovering from a civil war that just ended. Exhausted and beaten up, three villagers (Claudia Acosta, Cesar J. Rosario and Socorro Santiago) and the priest Eugenio (Peter Jay Fernandez) are eager to forget themselves in dance as soon as they manage to squeeze some music out of the radio. Their joyous celebration is interrupted by a government announcement of amnesty to the criminals of war.
The village doctor, Moises (Rey Lucas), standing in the corner of the room quietly until this moment, grabs a hammer and smashes the radio. This is how we meet him, a compassionate, intelligent man, losing himself to overpowering anger. He ran a hospital with his wife, nurse Belen (Flora Diaz), during the war. The atrocities they saw were despicable and deeply affected their relationship. Can the revenge wash off his grief? Will life ever be as sweet as the pineapples that Belen liked and which became their own code for love?
A young couple in a different village, Monica (Flor De Liz Perez) and Luis (Sean Carvajal), are also coping with the war and its consequences. Carvajal plays a gradually fading soldier with such nuance that the audience can feel the full density of a year spent at war squeezed into 80 minutes of the show. Monica has an enormous character arc, which De Liz Perez carries on her fragile shoulders with no visible effort.
Seven Spots on the Sun largely consists of self-reflecting monologues delivered by Monica and the priest, Eugenio, to the audience. The other narrator is “The Town” - three actors resembling a Greek chorus. The interference of the transcendental circumstances, mainly the suddenly acquired healing ability by the doctor, brings another element of ancient epos to Seven Spots on the Sun, the human hero with godly powers. But Moises is still very much a human, able to heal children’s bodies but unable to heal his own ripped sole.
The magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets the poetical symbolism of Milan Cundera in Seven Spots on the Sun, and is topped with occasionally graphic and realistic scenes of passion and violence, directed by Weyni Mengesha. Spanglish is heard throughout, which doesn’t affect the understanding of the play and creates a cultural and geographic paradox of a sort. Since the place is not pinned on the map and the events are fictional, one might think that we are in some bilingual region. And the thinner the border between English and Spanish becomes, the stronger becomes the need to define the border on the ground.
Perhaps, I am digging too deeply and the use of Spanglish in Zimmerman’s play exists purely for decorative purposes, for creating the “atmosphere” of a Hispanic town, so to speak. Bilingual speakers probably won’t think about this twice, and for some this would be the familiar language they hear daily.
The joined forces of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, supporting immerging playwrights since 1994, and The Sol Project, a young and ambitious company dedicated to producing works by Latinx playwrights, lead to a truly fruitful collaboration. Seven Spots on the Sun is only the 2nd production of The Sol Project, the first one, The Alligator, was quite a wild ride as well.
Seven Spots on the Sun runs at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, through June 4th. The running time is 80 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8:00pm; Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm; and Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets are $51 ($26 artists, $16 students) and are available at rattlestick.org or by calling 866-811-4111.
Seven Spots on the Sun is written by Martín Zimmerman and directed by Weyni Mengesha. It is produced by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in collaboration with The Sol Project. Production team includes: Arnulfo Maldonado (Set Design), Amith Chandrashaker (Lighting Design), Tei Blow (Sound Design). Photo: Russ Rowland
The cast is Claudia Acosta, Sean Carvajal, Flora Diaz, Peter Jay Fernande, Flor De Liz Perez, Rey Lucas, Cesar J. Rosado, and Socorro Santiago.
Asya Danilova is a New York based photographer and behind-the-scenes videographer for film and theater. She started a theater review blog, New Show New York, because of her passion for theater and background in art and film criticism. asyadanilova.com