Monday, March 29, 2010


Cuba and His Teddy Bear

Playwright Reinaldo Povod became a protégé of Joseph Papp at The Public Theatre in 1977. Cuba and His Teddy Bear emerged in 1986. It's a tough look at the life of a single dad, Cuba (Brian Burke): drug dealer/drama queen and his son. Aided by his old pal in crime, Jackie (Kyle Heffner), Cuba, at once attempts to be a father and best friend to Teddy, his sixteen year old son, well played by Dave Alfano. Director Charles Reed greets the audience to say this play has been workshopped by The Actors Collective for eight months. The hard work pays off on stage with performances that stand up as an ensemble as well as in each of the individual actors even as the play itself fails.

The story turns on Teddy, who exhibits his burgeoning maturity by helping to keep Cuba organized, playing the part of his pop’s butler and at once star struck by Che (flamboyant Brandon Alter), a Tony Award winning playwright and heroin junkie. The odd situation of Jackie cutting cocaine on the kitchen table and stashing two pounds of pot under the sink with Teddy blasé as a part of the scene smacked (excuse the pun, heroin factors in later) of Povod’s possibly being influenced by David Mamet, but, alas, he is no Mamet.

Strong performances by Josh Davis (Redlights) big time Puerto Rican pimp, his main squeeze, Lourdes (red hot Melissa Camilo) and bigger than life J. David Shanks as the strung out gay Dealer keep the show moving apace with vitriolic energy. The issue is why anyone should care. The “retribution” that Teddy tries to teach Cuba about (Cuba made a promise to never sell drugs again, but broke his promise and now is feeling the squeeze from the Universe or God or the Virgin Mary or karma or something) and aside from the over the top drama, the screaming, the angst, the rants and raging… after all is said and done, it’s the story of a drug dealer, his somewhat whacky pal and his son, just sitting in silence as the lights fade to black. It’s not the acting, the acting is very well done. It’s not the production, the bare bones set and lights serve the actors just fine. Director Reed has his ensemble completely up to speed and on the same page. It’s just that the play is more of an ordeal than an evening of seeing at least one character’s arc resolve into something better or, at least... different.

Cuba and His Teddy Bear
The Actors Collective Theatre, at The Complex,
6470 Santa Monica Blvd. (at Wilcox), Hollywood, CA 90038.
Valet parking optional (Fee is charged).
Fri. through Sun. at 8 p.m.
Closes April 4, 2010.
RESERVATIONS: (323) 463-4639.

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