In a small room above the Arts Theatre, audiences are invited to Las Americas Above, described as a ‘transcultural theatre festival’ which ‘transcends international frontiers’. The room is dark and hot, windows are covered with painted cardboard and the only decoration in the room is a tree made of light bulbs and umbrella frames hanging from a post in the middle of the room. The stage is set with a typewriter and a few barrels; the audience of 50 or so are packed into a tiny and overwhelmingly, hot space.
But, heat aside, this was a thrilling journey into love, lust and human emotions where the cast of three manage to enthrall and entertain throughout.
The premise is a simple one, the American government have decreed that death has been abolished and our play begins with hapless lovers Lorenzo (Aaron Anthony) and Cassandra (Emma Drinkwater) sword fighting because Lorenzo has had enough of ‘forever’ and wants to die, meanwhile Cassandra just wants to get married and move on with their life together.
I admit that my first impression of the cast was to shudder at the faux-American accents, especially the broad-Brooklyn twang of Drinkwater’s Cassandra, however, either the accents improved as the show went on, or the performances and play itself was so interesting and mesmerising that it became unnoticable.
Aaron Anthony initially came across as clownish as the play began, but his performance became the heart and soul of the piece. First as a little-boy- lost but not ready for love and later as a spirit trying to get back to his lady-love; his endearing comedy kept us all on the edge of our seats and his Latin dancing at the start of the play was a real delight.
In sharp contrast, Emma Drinkwater shows us a woman plunging into despair and her performance showed an amazing range. It was easy to forgive her an occasional moment of tongue-tiedness as the majority of her lines were delivered with passion and energy ranging from feverish anger to deluded hallucinations, all at a pace to be envied and with clarity in spite of the accent.
The lovers are joined onstage by Dr Wilson, played by Julian Protheroe, who delivers us a pathetic doctor-character, desperate for attention from Cassandra and envious of her relationship with Lorenzo. Protheroe’s Wilson is easy to dislike as he creeps closer and closer to Cassandra and tries to worm his way into her affection after the death of her lover. His performance was strong, in spite of the heat, however, I felt his transformation at the end of the piece into just another ‘man of the house’ was not distinct enough from his earlier portrayal and even though Cassandra bemoans the change, it wasn’t hugely obvious to the audience.
The simple staging worked well as Lorenzo and Cassandra’s unfinished flat and lighting was used to strong effect. There was a slight overuse in act 1 of a stab of Latino music whenever Lorenzo spoke Spanish, but the sound generally was very complimentary to the piece.
My one real complaint was the end of the play, lit mostly by UV light, it seemed like a silly, superficial finale and when Cassandra and Lorenzo finally find each other again it is a brief moment of passion that almost felt false in its brevity. While the repeat of the opening lines was a nice touch, I just felt like it could have been even more effective done differently.
So, in conclusion, this is a fascinating play to see, the performances are strong and generally lighting and sound is very good. However, please be prepared to be in a very hot room for around ninety minutes and try not to let the heat distract you from an otherwise enjoyable performance.
Review by Cat Lamin
Chaskis Theatre presents the world premiere of Jose Rivera’s HUMAN EMOTIONAL PROCESS.
In an odd dystopian future, the United States government has become so powerful it has the ability to change the laws of nature. The government outlaws death.
Cassandra stabs Lorenzo in the heart.
No one in America can die…
José Rivera is a recipient of two Obie Awards for playwriting for Marisol and References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, both produced by The Public Theatre, New York.
Rivera’s screenplay The Motorcycle Diaries was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award in 2005. Also nominated for a BAFTA and a Writers Guild Award, The Motorcycle Diaries won top writing awards in Spain and Argentina. His screenplay On the Road premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. His film Trade was the first film to premiere at the United Nations. Current television projects include an untitled HBO pilot, co-written with actor Tom Hanks.
Human Emotional Process by José Rivera, directed by Raymi Ortuste Quiroga as part of the Las Americas Above festival by Chaskis Theatre @ChaskisTheatre
Cast: Aaron Anthony, Emma Drinkwater, Julian Protheroe
Tickets: £18 / £15 concessions
Duration: 2 hours & 5 minutes
Please note: unallocated seating and no level access. Latecomers admission approximately 5 minutes into the show, then 20 minutes.
Booking to 15th August 2016