Playwright: Rebeca Aleman
At: Water People Theater Company @ Steppenwolf, 1700 N. Halsted St. Tickets: 312-335-1650; Steppenwolf.org; $25. Runs through: Oct. 13
Two stories are packed into this 90-minute world premiere, which launches the 3rd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival.
The first hour is a deeply compassionate personal story while the last 30 minutes is a political story only hinted at earlier. Story One is the rehabilitation of Paulina ( Rebeca Aleman, the playwright ), fighting back from devastating stroke-like brain damage. She's partially paralyzed and must reconstruct her cognitive functions, re-learning language and speech. Paulina's long term memories return only in bits and her short term memory never fully recovers.
Rodrigo ( Ramon Camin )her genuinely concerned and devoted caretakerreveals she was in a car accident, that she is an award winning journalist and they worked together. Paulina herself slowly recalls her mother, her daughter, her own childhood and pieces of poetry and song invoking the moon.
Performed with truth, these devastatingly painful and hopeful scenes are filled with struggle and small triumphs. You'll be misty eyed if you've ever nursed someone you love back from a stroke. Aleman's incredible face is beautiful even with the distortions of Paulina's injuries, her dark eyes shining and glistening with tears, her small smiles lighting the room as Paulina's wit and wits slowly return. Camin easily reveals how deeply Rodrigo loves her, long before he says so. Even his occasional impatience is tender and concerned. This is beautiful acting, directed by Iraida Tapias.
Eventually, the ugly, political truth emerges: Paulina crashed because she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt. An investigative journalist, she went rogue online with an exposé of government and cartel corruption and complicity, when her paper fired her rather than publish the story. Rodrigo is nursing her in a safe house. Her young daughter has been spirited away to safety. Her mother, riding with Paulina, died in the crash.
This political story, alas, is too true. Journalists around the world are being threatened, arrested, tortured, maimed and murdered by repressive regimes, paranoid strongmen, militarists and criminal oligarchs with whom they share power and spoils. Even as I write this, it's happening in Mexico, where this play is set, and in Russia, Turkey, Brazil, Syria, Egypt, China, Indonesia, Venezuela and other nations. In the USA we have a President who hates the press and would get away with such repression if he could, but he can't get away with it ... yet.
As a theater critic who has been published internationally, I can bear witness to this play's political story. As a caregiver for a stroke patient, I can bear witness to the personal story as well, which is told in a surprisingly poetic way. The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon speaks to me and sticks with me.