THE DEBT BUILDER, by Sebstian Salazar Bondy, translated and adayted by Miriam Davis, Gayana Jurkevich and Egla Morales Blouin. Direction and set design by Hugo Medrano. Lighting and sound by Carlos Banales.
With Oscar Ordenes, Raul N. Rizik, Maurice Johnson, Jan Simmons, Hermina Parra, Rebecca Read, Richard Gaetiens, Marcel Bouquet, Richard de Angelis, Helen Olney and Luis Manriqu.
At the Gala Hispanic Theatre, 2319 18th St. NW, this Thursday through Sunday.
Not only does a single actor -- a very funny actor named Raul N. Rizik -- v handle three different roles in "The Debt Builder," by Peruvian playwright Sebastian Salazar Bondy, but during one brief sequence he manages to do all three simultaneously.
How? Well may you ask. The living, breathing Rizik performs one part, while a slide projector and tape recorder reproduce the actor's image and voice as characters two and three.
The Gala Hispanic Theatre has made a number of such little adjustments in its production of this didactic comedy of manners; and some will regard the theater, a converted living room which seats 60 by a generous count, as a bit of an adjustment in itself. But with close attention to both spirit and detail, director Hugo Medrano and his cast have performed a worthy resuscitation job on a little known period -- 1944 in Lima, Peru -- and an even less known period-play.
Never taking the slightest notice of the world war raging an ocean or two away, the play revolves around Don Luciano Obedet, a polished chiseler who married into one of Peru's most respected families only to find that there were no longer any funds in back of the respect. Don Luciano has since become a professional borrower. "Debt is proof of my existence," he explains.
His latest plan for snatching riches from the jaws of ruin is to marry his daughter off to a landed French marquis. The wrinkle is that, unknown to Don Luciano, the marquis is as much a fraud as he. In any case, the eligible daughter has had the audacity to fall in love with a penniless socialist -- a young man (played with laudible earnestness by Richard Gaetjens) who, when asked what he and his intended bride will live on, replies fervently: "A piece of bread... a glass of water... a potato."
The playwright tells this woolly tale, based on characters from Honore de Balzac's "Le Faiseur" ("The Fraud"), with many broad, whimsical speeches, frequent asides to the audience and several quite unexpected songs.
A journalist and a socialist, Bondy did not write "The Debt Builder" purely for anyone's amusement, and his message, at least in the new English version prepared by Gala Hispanic, occasionally gets a mite heavy-handed. Likewise, an introductory narration, added by Medrano to set the scene, is long and undramatic, although informative (the aristocratic ladies of Lima, we learn, are invariably "wrapped in furs although the temperature never drops below 75 degrees").
But the players clearly care as much for laughs as lessons, and both, as a result, are well-served.
After performing the play in Spanish for several weekends, the same cast, except for three minor substitutions, has now switched into English.)