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Unmerciful Good Fortune

Edwin Sanchez has attracted considerable attention on the East Coast with a couple of provocative, edgy works, including "Clean" and "Trafficking in Broken Hearts." But Sanchez's reputation certainly won't get a boost from "Unmerciful Good Fortune," a mess of a play that is being given its world premiere in a joint venture between Victory Gardens and Northlight theaters, with an assist from AT&T's Onstage program.

Cast:
Cast: Denise Casano (Fatima Garcia), Sol Miranda (Maritza Cruz), Ernesto Gasco (Pito), Carmen Roman (Luz), Jim Catafio (Paul Leslie), Clifton Williams (Jeremy Kirkwood).

Edwin Sanchez has attracted considerable attention on the East Coast with a couple of provocative, edgy works, including “Clean” and “Trafficking in Broken Hearts.” But Sanchez’s reputation certainly won’t get a boost from “Unmerciful Good Fortune,” a mess of a play that is being given its world premiere in a joint venture between Victory Gardens and Northlight theaters, with an assist from AT&T’s Onstage program.

“Unmerciful” is a jumble of loosely connected stories about relationships that are poorly set up and unsatisfactorily resolved. The central plot line concerns Maritza Cruz (Sol Miranda), a rising young Bronx assistant district attorney involved in the case of Fatima Garcia (Denis Casano), a tough-talking young Hispanic woman accused of poisoning numerous customers in a fast-food restaurant.

Garcia has the power to see into people’s lives by simply grasping their hands, and the accused killer adamantly maintains she put her victims out of their misery by murdering them. Soon after they meet, Garcia latches onto Cruz and begins insinuating herself into the district attorney’s life. Among other things, Garcia suggests Cruz kill her seriously ill mother Luz (Carmen Roman) to end her suffering.

Other stories are woven into the script, involving Cruz’s associates and her father Pito (Ernesto Gasco), and none of them is particularly well-developed. But the play falls apart in the second act, when Sanchez suggests some kind of lesbian bond between Cruz and Garcia. The lesbian connection comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere after Sanchez introduces it.

Sanchez may have wanted to write a play about how relationships are established and sustained, but in “Unmerciful Good Fortune,” he never establishes the relationships he seeks to examine.

Director Susana Tubert’s production is a curiously de-energized affair. The pacing is deadly slow, and the acting, for the most part, is pedestrian. As Cruz , Miranda tries to give the show a focus, but despite considerable effort she ultimately gets lost, along with everyone else, in the muddle. Casano has a few good moments as Garcia, but for all her strange powers, the character isn’t that interesting. The rest of the cast barely registers.

Mary Griswold’s set crams too much into a small space, but the candles around the stage add considerable atmosphere. Todd Hensley’s subtle lighting design works well, as do Claudia Boddy’s understated costumes.

Unmerciful Good Fortune

Production: CHICAGO A Northlight Theater and Victory Gardens presentation of a play in two acts by Edwin Sanchez. Directed by Susana Tubert.

Crew: Sets, Mary Griswold; lighting, Todd Hensley; costumes, Claudia Boddy; sound, music, Lindsay Jones; production stage manager, Amy A. Field. Artistic directors, Russell Vandenbroucke (Northlight) and Dennis Zacek (Victory Gardens); managing directors, Richard Friedman (Northlight) and John Walker (Victory Gardens). Opened, reviewed Jan. 24, 1996, at Victory Gardens Theater; 195 seats; $ 28 top. Running time: 2 HOURS.

With: Cast: Denise Casano (Fatima Garcia), Sol Miranda (Maritza Cruz), Ernesto Gasco (Pito), Carmen Roman (Luz), Jim Catafio (Paul Leslie), Clifton Williams (Jeremy Kirkwood).

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