The Telenovela is alive and well and live on Stage at the American Theater of Actors. 2 Faces One Mirror, a powerhouse parable Written & Directed by Mario Lantigua hands us a tale of a mother who will do anything for her daughter—except tell her why she will do anything.
The short and to the point piece opens in the kitchen of Emily and Layla, a mouse-of-a-mother who wants only the best for her devil of a daughter. Spoiled to criminal behavior, Emily Anne Jolie Garcia stomps, curses, smokes, and threatens Sunflower Duran’s heartfelt interpretation of a woman, beaten by society and those who supposedly love her. Both women were powerful and believable with Garcia exuding a true childish innocence pushed to the point of needing to be “bad;” and Duran—channeling the great silent film actresses—by proving pregnant pauses allowing us to feel her great hurt at every jibe thrown at her by her ungrateful daughter.
The blunt, almost heavy-handed dialogue might seem shocking and even contrived at first but once the culture shock settles, you realize that you are looking at the story of a girl spoiled for her own protection by a mother who was never (protected). It is at that point that you feel for both women…deeply.
Lantigua’s rapid fire story allows us to realize that people trapped in this environment having to do whatever it takes to survive are just too tired and scared to stop and see the truth.
As a Director, Lantigua experiments with speed. Duran and Garcia’s scenes are harsh and fast while the entrance of the supporting cast goes at a more even pace—as if reality finds a way of creeping. Lindsay Kennedy as Emily’s oldest and dearest friend serves as the voice of reason. Commanding in presence and articulate in tone, Kennedy delivers the play’s moral values with humor and power. She is also responsible for the end reveal—a sequence done in cinematic style—making it that much more engaging.
Jillian Antoinette Eckland’s character was inspired in its creation and execution. As Wendy, the for-hire aunt/alibi for Garcia, we first think her mercenary, then in a quick stroke of dialogue we see the pain in her heart as well. Here, Lantigua shows us the folly of judging a book by its cover.
Daniel Collins as Emily’s abusive father allowed us to laugh, thanks to his over the top delivery but it was a red-herring as—when we stopped laughing—we saw that he was part of the problem.
Interesting that two pivotal characters in the play—Juan Roman Jr. and a mysterious and sadistic rapist are both head-shaven. It’s as if we are looking at a template of men—good and evil—at the same time. Roman gives us some needed humor as a teacher with personal ties to the family. Roman’s sold portrayal allows for a shift in the play’s energy. The invisible rapist, seen in shadow during a flashback, possesses the same charisma as the teacher. Is Lantigua trying to tell us something about men?
The Art of the Telenovela (for anyone who doesn’t know what that is, the genre of Jane the Virgin) became evident within a few schemes and the audience felt allowed to laugh at one point and gasp at another. The play ends abruptly (like a telenovela cliffhanger) but—since it is a play—it could use one or two more scenes in which the two protagonists resolve their differences. And a better set and lighting could add to the rich ambiance that the characters provide.
All considered, 2 Faces One Mirror should be required watching for all those with rocky dysfunctional families—in other words—for everyone.
Photo credit: Lucy Chrysiliou