nytheatre.com review by Michael Feldman
A convincing tiny Manhattan
apartment is the setting for the Actors of the World's production
Manhatitl�n. The play is an adaptation and translation (uncredited)
of the French-Caribbean play Ton Beau Capitaine by Simone
August 15, 2003
Surrounding Antonio—the despairing passionate protagonist—are a second-hand rug, a decaying chest, an antiquated lamp, and a wicker basket filled with various grocery items. Yet Antonio's one true possession, as he reveals in a heart-breaking confession towards the beginning of the play, is a cassette tape with the voice of his wife Maria. Manhatitl�n, as its title suggests, is about disjointedness and the clash of two contrasting places, cultures, and identities. The play explores exile and separation as Antonio, played by Marco Aponte, interacts with the taped voice of his wife Maria. Antonio and Maria correspond via audio tapes instead of letters. The lust and desire Antonio has for Maria is quite apparent as they both struggle with infidelity. The disjointedness of the piece is vividly portrayed under the direction of Lance Lattig, as Antonio alternately listens to the voice of Maria on tape or looks at her image in a framed picture on the table, but never both at the same time.
Unfortunately, the production is also disjointed, with the performance not always measuring up to the exquisite beauty of the writing. Aponte's reactions to the taped voice seemed childish and forced, which steered me to listen to the play rather than watch it, ultimately leading me to contemplate this show's legitimacy as a theatre piece. Perhaps it would fare better as a radio play.
Ultimately, though, I bought into the world of the play and saw Aponte's depiction of Antonio work because the character is an immigrant, lost and out of place just like a child. And Lattig should be congratulated for the stunning images which are only possible in the theatre, like the moment when Antonio dreams of Maria, seeing and hearing her at the same time (as we do via video projection), and when he tears up hundreds of dollars reciting lost promises and dreams that will never be.