Poor Uncle Sam. Once again on the side of the forces of evil.
This time it's in a Colombian play, "Stroke of Luck" ("Golpe de Suerte"), about the multimillion-dollar cocaine and marijuana traffic from Colombia to the United States.
This illicit trade -- involving quick riches and sudden death, gunfights and clandestine flights -- seems an unbeatable topic.
The chance to see it from a Colombian perspective is especially intriguing.
The country's leaders have come to realize that drugs are no longer just a Yankee problem. The trade that pumps big money into their weak economy has begun to have a corrupting influence on social and political life.
To heighten expectations, the play -- presented in Spanish to a crowd of several hundred Saturday at the Commerce Department auditorium -- was created by La Candelaria, a prizewinning ensemble from Bogota, and incorporates songs and dances.
The results, however, were disappointing.
"Stroke of Luck" is the story of two friends. Palomino and Julian, and their divergent paths in the face of temptation. Sponsored here by the Centro de Arte Community Cultural Center, it was one of four plays Candelaria was invited to present last month at the Festival of Latin American Popular Theater in New York.
Palomino, a guard, prevents a kidnapping attempt on the child of a drug-trade kingpin, Don Felix.In his gratitude, he gives the two friends and Palomino's wife round trip tickets to Miami.
At the airport, Don Felix's moll -- that 's the best word for her since, in flaming red hair and a gold miniskirt, she looks like someone out of the Chicago gangland era -- hands a small package to Palomino's wife to carry to Miami.
Palomino and Julian suspect the worst, but a bribe overcomes Palomino's resistance. Julian sells his ticket to buy a workshop and set himself up in business.
When next we see Palomino, he obviously has prospered in the drug trade. Julian, however, has lost his shop and is working on a construction crew building a large new home for Palomino.
ultimately, Palomino gets involved in a drug war with Don Felix, is jailed temporarily in the United States, but then is bailed out to return home where his wife has invested his ill-gotten gains in a legitimate business. h
At first he goes straight, but business complications send him back into the crooked arms of Don Felix, who, at the play's climax, shares a dais with the Statue of Liberty -- suggesting that part of the blame for his criminal life lies in the lure of big money from the United States.
In the end, we suspect Palomino gets richer and goes into politics. His friend Julian, now a labor leader, ultimately dies a violent death.
In Bogota, the play -- with its implications that drug money has found its way into the country's business and political elite -- may impress theatergoers.
Here, to a North American viewer, the plot is the oft-told, and not very subtle, story of mob corruption. Zoot-suited gangsters make you think you're watching an old Edward G. Robinson movie on TV.
The characters are stereotypical mobsters on the make, played in a frenzied burlesque style. Funny at times, they eventually only become wearying. A poor sound system made the songs hard to understand, also detracting from the performance.
A number of Latin American countries, when the politcal climate is favorable, enjoy a rich theatrical life. "Stroke of Luck" is not representative of the best.