Moises stopped practicing medicine at San Ysidro, a small, Central American village. Civil war lacerates the region — first the rebels, then forces backed by gringo “advisors.” Then back, then forth. All kill the same.
Moises tried to heal a tortured teenaged rebel. As a reprisal, a soldier murdered Moises’s wife Belen. That’s when Moises gave up on medicine and when a plague that only attacks children began.
To everyone’s surprise, but his above all, Moises can heal a child festering with pustules with a single touch. His legend spreads. Parents bring inflicted children from throughout the land, even the wife and child of the man who killed Belen.
Like Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Moises has the chance for ultimate revenge. Will he follow his fury or need the “rarer action” of mercy? Martin Zimmerman’s 90-minute drama recalls the traditional corridos of Mexico — folktales often set to music – and tries to match the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Cien Anos de Soledad. It is slow to come together, hard to follow at times, and often sacrifices clarity for verbal bling. In other words, it’s an ambitious, demanding piece.
Which is just the kind of script feisty InnerMission Productions would choose to begin its second full-time season. Director Carla Nell and her fully engaged group don’t get the whole play, but enough for a big, raw, and stirring evening of theater.
Two main reasons: Jorge Rodriguez’s Moises (“Moses”) is hurt. Everyone in the village has suffered grave losses; hobbling on a crutch, Moises seems to carry them all on his shoulders. Whether he’s making a fresh pineapple taste like an empyrean elixir or facing the horrors of his past, Rodriguez excels as Moises.
The other reason: Jennifer Paredes’s long-suffering Monica. Like Moises, the character makes a 180-degree shift. She’s a devoted wife battered by one revelation after another, all the while trying to hold her marriage, and her world, together. Paredes also excels (she’s really getting good!) especially when she must make high risk emotional shifts in seconds.
Sandra Ruiz and Bernardo Mazon turn in good work as Moises’s wife Belen (“Bethlehem”: the playwright never skimps on the symbolism) and Monica’s cold killer/battle-shocked husband Luis (who at one point brags how he killed children and saved bullets). The supporting cast is uneven, but all create a soundscape of chants, shouts, and screams, plus the rhythms of rituals effectively.
The design work has a kind of choreography. Nate Cargill’s lighting boasts a surprising number of arresting effects for such a small space. And Shaun Tuazon’s set’s like the Cheshire Cat: it’s there, when needed, then gone when not. A wheat-colored maze, the set looks like the humble interior of a cabin or shack. It never intrudes. At the same time, it’s packed with suggestive background details. The most appealing: fluted plastic shower curtains cut on a bias to make them — a touch of magic realism here — resemble chimes.
Playing through December 10