The Old Fitz 12th May-6th June
A Mophead Production
Directed by: Anthony Skuse
Performed by: Christian Charisiou, Deborah Galanos, Nicholas Papademetriou, Ronny Jon Paul Mouawad, Stephen Multari, Eloise Snape & David Soncin
THE HOUSE OF RAMON IGLESIA is a play about a bright, Americanised son’s tortured efforts to break away from his tradition-bound parents. A break that can’t be made until he learns to accept the ethnic heritage he has spent his life trying to suppress.
The Iglesia family is a Puerto Rican clan that migrated to Long Island in 1961, and whose members we meet in 1980. JAVIER is a young political science graduate, who often finds his parents embarrassingly indistinguishable from the Puerto Rican “fools” loitering on 8th Avenue. Father RAMON is a menial labourer usually rendered incoherent by his twin curses of diabetes and alcoholism. Religious mother DELORES has never really bothered to learn English.
CHARLIE, the most innocent of them all, is on the cusp of forging an identity for himself, and middle child JULIO wants to join the Marines, much to Javier’s disgust. And for some reason, CAROLINE, Javier’s beautiful white trailer-trash girlfriend wants to tag along for the epic and often humorous Hispanic ride. As the play progresses, we realise the sharp-tongued, well-educated Javier is no prince and his parents, while no saints, are far more complicated than they first appear.
Before seeing this production and reading up on it before hand I was struck with the currently trending phrase ‘Why this story and why now?’ A 1980’s story of Puerto Rican immigrants in New York is a vastly removed circumstance for majority of Australians to connect with. Though I still question ‘why this work?’ I was very quickly at ease with it when watching the diabolical private moments of a struggling family unit unfold before me. Don’t we all come from homes with drama and family issues, ummm yes…there is plenty of room where we can all relate. My concern was quickly tucked away not to be thought of again as I engaged in the events before me.
Director Anthony Skuse, quite frankly, has done it again! Another smashing show from one of Australia’s finest directors. Skuse handles text in such a caressing and romantic manner it is near impossible not to fall in love with his productions. This years shows ‘Platonov’ at ATYP and most recently ‘Caress Ache’ at Griffin were equally beautiful and captivating to watch. Skuse is a fine director and a fine gentleman which in turn shines gracefully through his work. His approach to character and his casting choices make for the best of independent theatre.
What I loved about Skuses’ production choices is there wasn’t an over-kill in reference to the 80’s in costume or set design. The references that did exist were subtle, which assisted greatly in engaging and focusing on the narrative and the inner conflict of each character instead of viewing the work in a nostalgic period state that could have distracted and dated the work. Skuse also I have noticed has a real affiliation (maybe he doesn’t, just my observation) with chairs. Both in ‘Platonov’ and this work his use of chairs, their placement and there symbolism in relation to human presence were common thread and gives a certain quality and style uniquely his own. This seemingly insignificant notion adds as a powerful ingredient to the invisible musicality and rhythm of his work. Skuses’ direction flows like chocolate lava to which you find yourself covered in and carried by from lights-up to lights- down. His choice of soundscape, composed brilliantly by sound designer Alistar Wallace assisted the work wonderfully. Giving extended silences/pauses in the work strong dancing legs. Succulent and not over-bearing, Skuse has produced a balanced production in every sense of the term.
I too can not speak highly enough of the performances in this production. Their wasn’t an amateur bone in this cast who’s professionalism, dedication and clear understanding of their characters were unwavering and genuine. First on the scene Deborah Galanos, played religious, longing for home mother Delores with tremendous conviction, heart-felt notion and a physical response to her characters struggle and dramatic inclinations masterfully well. A truthful portrayal of a strong Puerto Rican woman who struggles with loss and broken promises. Galanos performed Delores with gripping vitality and flare making her character both loveable and at times pitiful in moments of desperation. Galanos did not lack moments of humour that kept her character grounded and genuine.
Eloise Snape, played trailer-trash girlfriend to main character Javier perfectly. Her physicality was interesting and recognisable, as well as her New-York accen, faultless. Snape really grabbed this American stereotype by the horns making for a hysterical performance keeping an often heavy circumstantial play light on its feet. Snape is a top-notch performer who no doubt will continue to carve out a solid career. A dedicated performer with spark and great stage presence.
Christian Charisiou, authentically played his wanna-be marine bull-headed character Julio with an athletic rhythm and timing. His performance felt like a boxer in a fighting ring. Charisiou ducked were he needed, keeping it light when necessary and swinging the punches at perfect intervals to enhance his characters strengths and weaknesses. A strong performer with clear objectives and strong stage presence.
Nicholas Papademetriou, brilliantly portrayed father Ramon with a real earthy disposition, highlighting the peasant in the urban living man. His characters short comings seemed to out weigh his ability to be charming in tough situations to which Papademetriou’s performed in his stride. Papademetriou has the wow factor in his ability to portray the many colours and layers of a multi faceted character. A highly enjoyable and memorable performance.
Stephen Multari, played the son in the spotlight Javier smoothly and with great restraint. His characters struggles were internalised consistantly though the piece making his out bursts powerful with purposeful emotional back-story to support his frustration and point of view. Though at times a seemingly selfish ungrateful character, Multari gracefully carried his character to redemption in style at the end of the play. Multari is a stylish performer with a classy delivery.
David Sonchin, as Charlie played the younger brother endearingly well with a lot of heart and tenderness. Sonchin gave a well paced performance that made his character loveable – with a sweetness and youthful energy that brought balance to other more volitile characters. Sonchin was at the top of his game, pulling heart strings as he tugged his audience along his characters journey.
Ronny Jon Paul Mouawad, played an Italian thug who knocks on the Iglesia home to settle a debt by purchasing the Iglesia home for pennies. Mouawad successfully pulled out all the Italian mob cards in his portrayal of his character giving an authentic performance that felt surreal to watch. Head to toe Mouawad played the part, his nature and timing were great to watch.
‘The House of Ramon Iglesia’ is a beautifully written, heart-felt family saga. Anthony Skuse has taken the text and turned it into something magical with a brilliant cast whom no doubt drew on personal histories and talents making a distant story feel like home. Another great show produced by Mophead I left the theatre rhapsodic!