nytheatre.com review by Kelly McAllister
"You are dreaming" is the first line in Alejandro Morales’ play
expat/inferno, now playing as part of the FringeNYC Festival
at the Bottle Factory Theatre. The piece is a sort of dream
play, an odd mix of surreal scenes reminiscent of David Lynch or
Dante, and peppered with references to Jacques Brel, Proust, and
9/11. "Abandon every hope, all who enter," is written not only
over the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, but also on a
sign hanging over the restroom in a raunchy gay bar in expat/inferno.
Characters pop up from behind bars and dance menacingly. Danny,
the main character, can’t figure out what’s going on, whether he
is in said raunchy gay bar, or walking the streets of
Paris—everything seems slightly off, as if somewhere very near,
something very bad is happening. It is clear by the second scene
that Danny is either dead or having one hell of a nightmare.
Characters keep showing up in places they shouldn’t be, and then
vanish again as quickly as they appeared. Specific lines get
repeated by other characters again and again, like "you are
dreaming." Bare light bulbs hang from the ceiling to give a
ghostly glow—and far too little light—to the action.
August 15, 2003
I love dream plays, but they are a tricky thing to pull off, and while I think there is a good play in expat/inferno, it needs to find its way out of the darkness and into the light—I don’t think it’s quite there yet. The script could use some cuts—the play is over two hours long and very repetitive, and there is little to no comic relief. Which is a shame, because some of the scenes are very well written. The direction is a mixed bag as well: some scenes make you feel as if you are truly dreaming, while others get bogged down.
Standouts in the cast are Drew Cortese, who plays Danny with a quiet sorrow and intelligence, Judith Delgado as the mother figure of the dream, and especially Polly Lee as Beatrice. Lee makes every scene she is in sparkle.
One more note—the theater is very dimly lit by hanging light bulbs, and the chairs for the audience are on risers with no railings or glow tape to keep people from falling over the edge of the risers, which happened the day I saw the show. So if you go to see expat/inferno, be careful.