Haunting the Reynosos
nytheatre.com review by Di Jayawickrema
November 26, 2010
Haunting the Reynosos tells the story of the Reynosos family, who have spent a decade under house arrest while the family patriarch has been missing. A web of family secrets, political turmoil, and a haunting that may or may not be psychological make for an atmospheric, dramatic tale that would have been served better had it been less heavy-handed and had the English translations projected upstage been better timed.
The play is set during a familiar "people's revolution" on a fictional Caribbean island in the decadent mansion of Patricio Reynosos, former head of Internal Affairs and unofficial former island "royalty." We are quickly introduced to the clash of new powers against the old in the Reynosos's living room. The set design by Ji-Youn Chang is darkly beautiful and eerie, with glassy-eyed dolls lining the mantle below a foggy mirror from which a "ghost" puppet intermittently appears. Here, the family matriarch, Anastasia Reynosos played by Teresa Yenque—who is clearly haunted, either by real ghosts, ones in her mind, or both—is being interviewed in front of a live, national audience on the whereabouts of her husband, who is wanted for the torture and murder of hundreds during his time in power. Clearly demented, this Spanish-speaking Miss Havisham delivers a performance that often transcends words. Most of the dialogue is in Spanish so unless you are fluent, you will have to wait for distractingly delayed subtitles that pull you out of the big, emotional performances given by most of the cast.
In a clever move by director Roberto Cambeiro, Winston Estevez is chosen to play both Patricio Reynosos in flashbacks and the prosecutor interrogating the family in the present. His performance as the prosecutor is understated compared to those of his castmates, and we come to find out that he has both a personal stake in this taped investigation and more in common with Reynosos than is first evident.
One by one, each damaged member of the family is called forward to be interviewed. The remaining members of the family are also haunted by unknown forces; the fiercely protective and ancestral proud oldest sister, Rosaura (played by Laura Spalding), who may have had a incestuous relationship with her father; gay and cocaine-addicted brother Eladio (Fabian Gonzalez); and the youngest, Dolores "Lola," a 26-year-old woman trapped in her adolescence. Betsy Pujols as Lola gives an alternatingly shrill and affecting performance. Lola is the emotional core of the play, as the main victim the prosecutor is trying to avenge—the murdered dancer and mistress of Patricio Reynosos, Negrita Nekheba—was her dance teacher and closest friend. Pujols's uneven performance encapsulates the character of Haunting of the Reynosos at large; at times, genuinely haunting and layered, and at other times, unnecessarily ham-fisted.
The final scenes of the play unfold in either classic Greek tragedy or cheap daytime soap opera fashion, depending on your point of view, with the entire dramatis personae facing poisonings, dramatic confessions, and maniacal ravings galore. The sensationalist action seems unnecessary as there is enough real drama in Henry Guzman's script without it.