DISMISS ALL THE POETS
nytheatre.com review by Alyssa Simon
In 1968, Cuban poet Herberto Padilla was awarded his country’s national
poetry prize for Fuero del Juego (Out of the Game), a book that
reflected his growing disillusionment with Castro’s government. In the
following year, he was arrested, incarcerated, and tortured by state
security forces in the name of the same revolution he had previously
lauded in his work.
August 15, 2002
Dismiss All The Poets is a fictionalized account of Padilla’s experiences and asks what an artist’s role is in society and the meaning of heroism. Adrian Rodriguez has written a great play. The lead character Roberto Arias (Jose Antonio) is not a noble martyr for any cause. He is a complex character with weaknesses and flaws. His human failings bring his situation much closer to home for the audience and allow us to question ourselves. What would we do? Would we sign a false confession under threat of torture? Would we publicly declare allegiance to a totalitarian regime to save our family? Would we report our friends’ actions to state authorities to save ourselves?
Roberto is sent to Moscow by the Cuban government and meets his old friend and fellow writer Yuri Namchenko, wonderfully played by Emilio Delgado. (Those of you in your 30’s and younger will recognize him as "Luis" from "Sesame Street.") Yuri has a brilliant and talented daughter Irina (Angelica Osborne), a painter who, when threatened by the government, decides to take her own life rather than change her art’s subject matter.
Even more disturbing than Irina’s choosing death as the most defiant and heroic act in an authoritarian state is the decision her father makes elsewhere in the play, giving a petty government bureaucrat information about his daughter to protect himself.
Arian Blanco, the director, shows the passage of time, flashbacks and dream sequences in vignettes that move the piece along well. Unfortunately, the acting is uneven and the lack of voice and diction training makes some of the actors very hard to follow over the space’s air conditioning. I so wanted to hear every word to get a sense of the poetry and because I really like the writing. I look forward to seeing more of Adrian Rodriguez’s plays.