Though Kuri participated in New York’s 2001 International Hispanic Theatre Festival, this production will mark his first individual critical exposure in the city, something that he has enjoyed for sometime in many of the other countries of the world. In addition to having work presented in the International Mexican Cervantino Festival, Kuri is able to list such important events as Barcelona’s Grec Festival, Puerto Rico’s International Theatre Showcase and the Festival Iberoamericano in Bogotá on his resume.
Recently the playwright has been enamored with exploring the vibrant and sometimes erratic passions of youth through abstract and largely symbolic plays. The Bitterness of the Meringue, which Kuri describes as “an autumnal farce of the comic anguish”, is no exception. The piece centers on Fenix, a young man traveling through mythical unnamed lands with his mentor. Upon arriving in one such location, Fenix has his heart stolen, quite literally, by the prostitute sister of a beautiful young woman. When the time comes for him to give his love, and consequently his heart, to the young woman whom he’s fallen for, he is left without one to give.
According to press materials, Kuri takes inspiration from the proverb “it’s better to have a broken heart than a rusted one,” which he believes succinctly explains the play. Kuri is described as a modernist writer and the play as an attempt to examine the consequences of love. The story is presented to the audience like an early 20th century medicine show.
It took the persistence of one of the production’s actors, Antonio Cerezo, to get the play from Mexico City to New York. After a planned production of Meringue fell through in his home city, Cerezo facilitated an English adaptation of the play by Edith Luna and proposed it to director Raine Bode, whom he knew had been steadily working with La MaMa since 2000. Bode was scheduled to direct a piece at La MaMa’s First Floor Theater this year and chose Meringue.
Bode has worked with MaMa herself, founder and artistic director Ellen Stewart, on Seven Against Thebes and Dionysus Filius Dei at La MaMa. Last season she directed Dipteracon, or Short Live S%*t Eaters, a Greek tragedy rock musical based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s “The Flies”. Bode cut her teeth by co-founding Baltimore’s Mongrel Theatre before coming to New York. Kuri’s only other appearance in New York was with De monstrous y prodigiosla Historia de las Castrati: Monsters and Prodigies, a well-received physical comedy with music that sought to expose the tumultuous lifestyle of the castrated male sopranos of the Baroque era.
The cast for The Bitterness of the Meringue includes Antonio Cerezo, Nicky Paraiso, Siho Ellsmore, John Benoit and Sasha Painter. Bode and Cerezo also designed the production, which runs Jan. 20 through Feb. 6.
For tickets call the La MaMa box office at (212) 475-7710 or visit www.lamama.org .