Ion’s world pemiere, ‘Julia’ is riveting.
By Carol Davis
SAN DIEGO—There is something about sitting in the front row of a 49-seat theatre and being up close and personal with the actors. It puts you in the center of the story. That’s how I felt recently when I found myself almost in the living room set of Claudio Raygoza’a new play, Julia (pronounced with an H, Hool-y-a).
Julia (Catalina Maynard) is the protagonist in artistic director/co-founding father and playwright Raygoza’s world premiere play loosely based on August Strindberg’s Miss Julie. Like Maggie the cat in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, she is ready to pounce on a moment’s notice.
Raygoza’s three-person play is an intense study in how wealth neutralizes the gender gap in all strata of society and makes a mockery of civility when the quest for power overtakes reason. To prove a point Catalina’s Julia is about as ruthless, disparaging and power hungry, traits nurtured by her father and grandfather that border dangerously on self-destruction.
She has no problem reducing Jacob (Jorge Rodriguez); her on again off again gigolo, her husband’s valet/chauffer and gofer, to groveling just to sooth her ruffled feathers. Jacob’s timid wife Cristal (Anyelid Meneses) shrinks into herself every time Julia barks at her and both cater to her every whim. Oh, and did I mention that her husband was running for president of Mexico and has instructed Jacob to keep an eye on his rich/bitch wife? But no matter she has her own mishigas to deal with.
All the action takes place in a beautiful 1970’s upscale condo in the Coronado Cays that is her retreat haven and I’m guessing war room as well as escape hatch for both her and her husband. As the action begins we find Cristal in a maid’s uniform setting the table for dinner in a deliberate, but unsure order. Rabbit stew (a la Julia Child, no less) is cooking in the kitchen out of sight. This was supposed to be an anniversary celebration of sorts with her errant husband (who never shows up).
Without notice Jacob bursts into the condo carrying a box and demanding a clean shirt while trying to figure out who sent the telescope (with a pink ribbon on it) sitting on the patio, and why? (That was never fully explained even though many references to it were made throughout the 90-minute play). The action quickly moves from telescope to the arrival of Julia who is laden with shopping bags and suspiciously looking around the condo. At this time, both Jacob and Cristal jump to attention in an effort to please the mistress.
Raygoza’s new play is the theatre’s 50th production at Ion and his second reimaging of a classic. La Gaviota, based on Chekhov’s The Seagull was his first and while that one was a bit long and ambling, “Julia” is short, sweet, edge-of-your-seat and to-the-point riveting. This is in every way due to Raygoza’s taut directing and the amazingly wonderful performances by all three cast members, particularly Catalina Maynard’s self absorbed, selfish and almost out-of-control Julia.
As mentioned earlier, up close and personal has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is being so close that you hope none of the violence (and there is violence) spills over on to you, which is an unlikely scenario but you never know.
On the plus side and looking at Jorge Rodriguez’s appealing Jacob from Julia’s point of view, it gives you a better understanding as to why she so covets this man. I know, I know, it’s only a play but a gal can think. Both Jacob and Julia play a deadly game of cat (there goes Maggie again) and mouse in real time with Anyelid Meneses’ Cristal cowering off to the side on the one hand and resolute on the other. It’s hard to guess, when all the cards are played out, who the winners and losers in this strange psychological game of mind over power are. Just know, that it is every bit worth seeing.
Brian Redfern’s upscale condo, which is furnished and appointed to say ‘someone of means lives here’, is well suited as the playing space for this intimate piece. Karen Filijan’s lighting design and James Dirks sound design adds to the overall quality of this new work. Enjoy!
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Oct. 27
Organization: Ion Theatre
Production Type: Drama
Where: 3704 6th Avenue
Ticket Prices: $15.00-$33.00
Davis is a San Diego-based theatre critic. She may be contacted at email@example.com
Short URL: http://www.sdjewishworld.com/?p=31728