Reviews - Fringe 2014

Fringe Review: Rise of the Prickly Pear

By Anne Bokma
Published July 21, 2014

  • Plawright: Radha Menon
  • Director:  Tony Sciara
  • Cast: Tamara Kamermans, Carla Garcia, Nathan Bigec
  • Show Type: Drama
  • Audience: General, Mature
  • Running Time: 60 Minutes
  • Playing at Artword Artbar

    I walked into this play knowing I was in for a treat.  It's written by Hamilton playwright Radha Menon, who also wrote last summer's powerfully moving hit fringe show Ghost Train Riders, which was selected as one of the winners of the View Magazine's best of theatre in 2013.

    I walked out of the play still somewhat confused about its title, but swept away by its grand themes of forbidden love, familial betrayal and resilience in the face of despair.

    Mostly, I was impressed by the acting.

    The story unfolds against the backdrop of the final days of the Cuban revolution as Marianne (played exquisitely by Tamara Kamermans) expends all her energy pushing her young daughter Hermosita (played with equal grace by Carla Garcia) into marrying a rich man whose wealth will cushion them both in a country plagued by poverty and conflict.

    Hermosita, who brings to mind a young Frida Kahlo with her unapologetic stance and dark browed beauty, pushes back, professing her love for a young soldier boy.

    The emotionally steamy scenes between these two women, infused with control and resentment, transpire under the mechanical whir of an invisible fan. You can almost feel the moist heat of Cuba as you watch the perspiration bubble up on their foreheads.

    Nathan Bigec offers up a sensitive portrayal as Hermosita's idealistic young lover and director Tony Sciara has done a brilliant job with a simple set that effectively evokes the desperation of late '50s Cuba.

    But it's hard to take your eyes off the compelling faces of the two actresses in this piece-filled as they are with tense expression and raw feeling.

    Garcia is a wonder to watch and Kamermans is utterly captivating, especially when her hardened surface softens as she reveals a long hidden secret from her past life as a dancer.   The play's powerful ending makes you question the motives of maternal devotion, the ingratitude of children, and how we go on living in the face of broken dreams.

    Anne Bokma is an award-winning journalist in Hamilton. She writes the "Spiritual But Secular" monthly column for the United Church Observer, reporting on the spiritual practices of the growing spiritual-but-not-religious demographic. Her blog, "My Year of Living Spiritually," is hosted on the Observer website.


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