Rogelio Martinez’s “Displaced” was written in 2004 but is only now getting its world premiere, a curiosity explained not in the program but by what’s onstage. This very silly seriocomedy about two Ugly Americans and one dying expat in a Havana hotel reels between farce, Pirandello terrain and serious treatment of cultural displacement issues, landing in a dramaturgical Bermuda Triangle smack in the middle. Senselessly tricky in structure, nodding at numerous themes without exploring them, it defies rescue by the forced high spirits of Amy Glazer’s Marin Theater Company production.
In a hotel room gorgeously painted colorwash-aqua by J.B. Wilson (although the furniture pieces are by contrast jarringly loud in hue), Miranda (Jamie Jones) is having conniptions. The whiny Pennsylvanian can hardly enjoy herself, having retro Red Menace fears about the fate she and husband Matt (Darren Bridgett) might suffer as a result of their having accidentally been blown from Miami to Cuba during a hot-air-balloon excursion. (The operator had a heart attack, leaving their course to storm winds.)
While diplomats sort out this frivolous “international incident,” government rep Serafin (Johnny Moreno) reassures the couple, telling them they’ll most likely be back on democratic soil tomorrow.
But the strange situation only exacerbates neuroses Miranda carried from home. She’s quickly telling the bewildered official more than he wants to know: Her marriage is a disaster, her husband an incessant cheat, and she just slept with her sister’s fiancee in Miami to spite everyone.
The scene suddenly halts as disco lights whirl and samba music blares. When they stop, the room’s occupants are Amador (Jarion Monroe) and Ana (Maria Grazia Affinito). He’s an aging, playwright with cancer who’s returned after decades in the U.S. She’s a prostitute hired to be his muse and, if writer’s block holds, the ghost scribe of his latest work — something she not only agrees to but hardballs in contract-negotiation terms.
With lights and music spinning, then “rewinding” as we switch between the two rooms’ occupants, it doesn’t take long to realize the Yankee couple, Serafin and the dancer-cum-revolutionary dialectician Lily (Isabelle Ortega) who later joins them are all characters in the play Amador is creating.
But after intermission, the two parallel worlds begin spilling into each other, erasing any line between reality and fiction. There’s no eventual explanation for this — just as there’s no particular meaning to myriad later developments, which include an out-of-the-blue lesbian attraction, hidden-identity revelations, amnesia and a hurricane.
Climactic latter event requires the set to fall apart somewhat, a spectacle that, like so much here, demands a great deal of effort for no real payoff.
If “Displaced” had a whimsical, fantastical air that required no interior logic, that would be one thing. But the text starts out in second-rate Neil Simon territory amid the screechings of its ditzy, self-absorbed Americans, a sitcom tenor persisting even as Martinez introduces inelegantly worked-out Ayckbourn-style structural tropes.
Amid the clutter we’re meant to take seriously the cultural-identity issues of returned native son Amador and stranger-in-strange-land Miranda, who conveniently finds out she was born Cuban, too. (Martinez himself left Cuba for the U.S. as a child.)
But the characters are mere stick figures. The play throws anything and everything that comes to mind against the wall, but nothing sticks.
Glazer’s capable actors understandably seem a bit at a loss, trying to play “real” one moment and door-slamming farce another. The hurricane metaphor is a little too perfect, given a script that itself is a scattered mess.