Here's some advice: If you wake up someday and find you're dead, don't hang around the house, eavesdropping on your loved ones. If you do, you might make some mortifying discoveries.
Enzo is the Buenos Aires musician who finds himself watching his family's unflattering reactions to his demise in "Justo en lo Mejor de Mi Vida" ("Just at Life's Best Moment"), a yawn of a play that has been a hit in Argentina, and which Teatro de la Luna is staging in the original Spanish, with English surtitles. Written by Argentine playwright Alicia Munoz, "Justo en lo Mejor de mi Vida" conjures up a few poignant hours in the existence of Enzo, the hero who is a fifty-something player of the bandoneon (an accordion-like instrument used in tango music).
A panicked confession by Enzo's daughter, Yanina; his wife Veronica's weepy reminiscence of romance and disillusionment; the pent-up resentment of his brother Lucho -- as the play weaves together these fragments of mild melodrama, it muses on the bittersweet nature of domestic life. Gentle humor crops up here and there, sometimes through the quips of Enzo's mysterious friend Piguyi, a font of knowledge about the supernatural.
"I thought there'd be no bureaucracy on the other side," Enzo complains at one point, on hearing that the afterlife boasts a customs department.
"And where do you think bureaucrats go?" Piguyi rejoins sarcastically.
Such witticisms notwithstanding, the unsophisticated plotting and dawdling pace of "Justo en lo Mejor de Mi Vida" can become a little dull (although the play has chalked up more than 500 performances in Argentina, according to publicity materials). Teatro de la Luna has put together an attractive production of the piece, though. Director Mario Marcel shoulders the role of Enzo, emphasizing the character's clownish impatience as well as his tenderness. You can sense a father's affection when he looks at Yanina, who like the other family members is unable to see or hear her ghostly dad (in one sweet, melancholy moment, Enzo allows himself to caress her ponytail while she sits, brooding on her problems).
As the feisty but vulnerable Yanina, bounding about the house in pajamas or a track suit (costumes are by Nucky Walder), Monalisa Arias brims with a tomboyish energy, but she also can shift ably into pensiveness. Marycarmen Wila makes a quietly funny and wistful Veronica, puttering around in her dressing gown, and Arturo Martinez is a sturdy presence as Lucho. Cutting the most dashing profile is Peter Pereyra as Piguyi, who glides onstage in a three-piece suit with a carnation in the lapel and a cigarette dangling from his lips, looking like a glamorous silent-movie figure.
His Rudolph Valentino pizazz contrasts effectively with the plebeian furnishings of Enzo's home: a tiny kitchen flanked by rooms cluttered with shelves, plants, knickknacks, an ironing board, a birdcage and so on (Marcel also designed the set). Ayun Fedorcha's expressive lighting infuses this picture with a cozy warmth or welcome dose of spookiness. And lighting and set contribute to a low-key coup de theatre that is perhaps the highlight of the production. As one could almost imagine Piguyi reminding us: You should keep your guard up as you tango into the Great Beyond.
Justo en lo Mejor de Mi Vida (Just at Life's Best Moment), by Alicia Munoz. In Spanish with English surtitles (English translation by J. Paul Lennon). Direction and set design by Mario Marcel. About 90 minutes. Through Nov. 12 at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington. Call 703-548-3092 or visit www.teatrodelaluna.org.