Human Emotional Process (Above the Arts Theatre) ★★★
José Rivera, the writer of this new play, is a recipient of two Obie Awards for Marisol and References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, both produced by The Public Theatre, New York. His screenplay The Motorcycle Diaries was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 as well as for a BAFTA and a Writers Guild Award. Therefore I was intrigued when the world premiere of Human Emotional Process was announced as part of Las Americas Above, a transnational theatre festival by Chaskis Theatre.
Rivera takes us to a future where the United States government has become omnipotent. America invades countries at will, replacing the inhabitants with American citizens. There are plenty of Americans to populate the world because death has been outlawed in the U. S.
Cassandra and Lorenzo start off the performance with a fencing duel. Cassandra stabs Lorenzo in the heart – but he cannot die. Still Lorenzo can feel the pain and Dr Wilson stops by to take care of his injury. Cassandra and Lorenzo have known each other all their lives and Cassandra would like to get married. She is already planning the house where they will live, drawing out detailed plans. Yet Lorenzo is scared by the thought and would do anything to avoid getting married, and if it means his death. Dr Wilson petitions the U. S. government, which is run by major corporations, to permit death again, claiming he is an important shareholder, and his wish is granted – Lorenzo is able to die. But before Cassandra can follow him, death is outlawed again.
The play focuses on the two lovers, played by Aaron Anthony and Emma Drinkwater, who cannot come together because of their obsessions and lack of commitment. Dr Wilson (Julian Protheroe) manipulates their lives by contacting the U. S. government, with his first object being to get Lorenzo out of the way to then obtain easier access to Cassandra.
Directed by Raymi Ortuste Quiroga, this absurd play moves in various directions. It is a love story dealing with commitment angst and obsession, science fiction – painting a dystopian future with a poisoned earth and an ever invading, omnipotent America, and a fantastical story taking the two lovers to a different dimension where one can smell colours and thoughts, painted in purple in turquoise – a wondrous world indeed.
There are many interesting ideas in this play and the cast is very good, but the story is trying to be too many different things within too short a time, which does not work for me.
Reviewed by Carolin Kopplin
Photo: Lidia Crisafulli
Human Emotional Process is playing at the Above the Arts Theatre until 15th August