'Diciembre'

The Santiago, Chile-based Teatro en el Blanco ("Theater on Target") is certainly not coy about flaunting its agenda.

The Santiago, Chile-based Teatro en el Blanco (“Theater on Target”) is certainly not coy about flaunting its agenda. During the course of a relentlessly combative, yet highly comedic display of sibling confrontation, the chaotic political history of Chile and its South American neighbors is emphatically skewered and dissected. Serving as an emotionally raw conduit to centuries of acquired social angst, scripter-helmer Guillermo Calderon and a vocally dynamic three-member ensemble bombard such issues as racism, protectionism and patriotism. The translated dialogue of “Diciembre” is projected in English supertitles that do not adequately communicate the interactive flow of these captivating onstage protagonists.

Set in a futuristic Christmas Eve 2014, the action focuses on Jorge (Jorge Becker Reyes), an ambivalent young soldier on leave from a fictional border war between Chile and Peru. The supposed one-day holiday turns into an agenda-driven battleground, dictated by the opposing mandates of Jorge’s older, pregnant twin sisters, Trinidad (Trinidad Gonzalez), a pacifist who opposes the war, and the ultra militant nationalist Paula (Paula Zuniga) who applauds the fighting.

Calderon’s dialogue is as witty as it is bleakly pessimistic. Raging through such historic and contemporary Chilean crises as the festering memory of a century’s-old war with Bolivia, the reputed crimes of former Peruvian President Fujimori, and the racial/ethnic tensions caused by the increasing immigration of darker-skinned natives from Peru, Calderon offers a jaundiced indictment of the capabilities and culpability of governments, while applauding the resiliency of the Chilean populace.

The Santiago, Chile-based Teatro en el Blanco (Theater on Target) is certainly not coy about flaunting its agenda. During the course of a relentlessly combative, yet highly comedic display of sibling confrontation, the chaotic political history of Chile and its South American neighbors is emphatically skewered and dissected. Serving as an emotionally raw conduit to centuries of acquired social angst, scripter-helmer Guillermo Calderon and a vocally dynamic three-member ensemble bombard such issues as racism, protectionism and patriotism. The translated dialogue of “Diciembre” is projected in English supertitles that do not adequately communicate the interactive flow of these captivating onstage protagonists.

Set in Christmas Eve 2014, the action focuses on Jorge (Jorge Becker), an ambivalent young soldier on leave from a fictional border war between Chile and Peru. The supposed one-day holiday turns into an agenda-driven battleground, dictated by the opposing mandates of Jorge’s older, pregnant twin sisters, Trinidad (Trinidad Gonzalez), a pacifist who opposes the war, and the ultra-militant nationalist Paula (Paula Zuniga) who applauds the fighting.

Calderon’s dialogue is as witty as it is bleakly pessimistic. Raging through such historic and contemporary Chilean crises as the festering memory of a century’s-old war with Bolivia, the reputed crimes of former Peruvian President Fujimori, and the racial/ethnic tensions caused by the increasing immigration of darker-skinned natives from Peru, Calderon offers a jaundiced indictment of the capabilities and culpability of governments, while applauding the resiliency of the Chilean populace.

Performing on a bare-bones but adequate touring set, the ensemble evokes the veracity of family members who have warred against and loved each other all their lives. As the dueling twins, Gonzalez’s Trinidad and Zuniga’s Paula thrash at each other through reams of logic, prejudice and fatalistic humor.

Gonzalez offers an emotionally measured, multilayered portrayal of an antiwar activist who uses her innate wit, hoping to cajole her brother into defecting. Zuniga is fascinating as the motor-mouthed militant who attempts to verbally ramrod both her sister and brother into submission.

Becker’s Jorge exudes a perfect balance of low-keyed, noncommittal neutrality, all the while offering hints of character and resolve, heretofore unrevealed to his sisters. He impressively voices Calderon’s evolving observations on racism and the complicated divide between nationalism and pacifism.

“Diciembre” is part of a Calderon trilogy of social indictment legit fare that includes “Neva,” set in 1905 prerevolutionary Russia, and “Class,” a chronicle of a recent Chilean students’ strike.

Diciembre

REDCAT at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles; 200 Seats; $25

Production

A REDCAT, in association with Festival Santiago a Mil, presentation of a play in one act, written and directed by Guillermo Calderon; English translation by Harley Erdman.

Creative

Sets and concept design, Teatro en el Blanco; lighting/technical, Jose Tomas Gonzalez. Presented in Spanish with English supertitles. Opened and reviewed, Feb. 24; closes Feb. 27. Running time: 1 HR, 30 MIN.

Cast

Jorge - Jorge Becker Reyes Trinidad - Trinidad Gonzalez Paula - Paula Zuniga
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