“The Stepchildren”

Francisco Castro

From the play La Hijastra. photo:cubaescena.cult.cu

HAVANA TIMES – Coming out of the theater, my friend informed me of his dissatisfaction with the play.  He was unable to capture the essence of what was being represented in the hall, blinded by the nasty, sickening, outrageous, disgusting and pornographic episodes that unfolded before the frightened eyes of the spectators.

A girl who lost her arms in a shipwreck drags herself tearfully along the dirty floor.  Her stepfather fondles her, then rubs filthy things along her face and body.

A neighbor compulsively scratches his crotch.  His wife bemoans the loss of their three children, also in a shipwreck.  Later, mutilated members – like pieces of meat eaten away by salt residues and vermin – will fall onto their tables, onto their heads, upon their suffering, reminding them of their sons.  And, like two versions of Cronus, they will devour them.

The stepfather stuffs the stepdaughter with a pale and meager food, which falls on the floor, is returned to the plate, mixed in with a dripping spoon taken out of a toilet and ends in the mouth of the armless girl, who spits it back into the stepfather’s face.

The stepfather masturbates above the neighbor and ejaculates in his face, in front of the stepdaughter who shrieks with something between pleasure and insanity.

And so it goes – one episode after another of physical and verbal violence, with markedly gross intervals between them, in which some of the most popular Cuban songs acquire new meanings.

Nearly the entire show transpires before the sometimes accusing, sometimes bored eyes of a little grade school girl sitting at a desk. In this way the plot is woven into a meaning that, for me, was clear all along.

After letting my friend know this, his rejection of all that he had seen took on a different tone.

Beyond everything else, I saw love in the presentation.  Love of the author for his country: Cuba, as in all his plays, represented by nothing more or less than the armless daughter, as we Cubans are armless and abused by those who have arms and decide our destinies.

I saw pain and the desire for change.  And more fundamental for me – I saw hope.

It’s a pity that many people have felt offended by the very harsh images that they watched, and that they have raised a huge outcry, accusing the director of this, that and the other…

It’s a shame that they haven’t understood that what they saw is a summary, a concentrated version of what they see every day, even of what they suffer, and it’s not exactly the director of the play whom they should be accusing.

“The Stepdaughter” by Rogelio Orizondo
Adapted for the stage by Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti
Produced by the National Council for the Performing Arts, the Havana Theater Center and El Ingenio.