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Doña Beba: Marita (Carla Pantoja) and Zoila (Iris Diaz) compete for the affections of Gloria (Wilma Bonet) in 'Lady From Havana.'

Throw Mama From the Train

'Lady From Havana' explores generational and cultural conflicts between a Cuban mother and her two daughters

By Todd Inoue

CALL IT Pitbull From Havana. Luis Santeiro wrote this 1990 play about a Cuban mother, Gloria, and her two daughters, one biological Cuban-American, Marita, and the other, an adopted Cuban national, Zoila. As Gloria (Wilma Bonet) enters her twilight years and caretaker roles are reversed, her yuppie Miami-resident daughter Marita (Carla Pantoja) attempts to reconcile the relationship and it will take more than an intervention from Dr. Phil.

The geographic difference was the easiest ocean to cross as generational, political, ideological and cultural differences take precedence in Lady From Havana. Marita is on the '80s fast track with a job and a suburban house. Mama Gloria is obstinate in her affections, leaning on Zoila (Iris Diaz) for basic needs. She is a bulldog of a woman, described as "queen of the black market," a "closet Communist" and a "stubborn old woman." Her wily ways leave nerves frayed, and sputtering sparks as Marita attempts to keep Gloria from running her life: "I can do more in Communist Cuba than I can in her home," Mama grouses. "I'm not putting words in your mouth, I'm helping them come out," she says later.

Adoptive daughter Zoila has been working since she was 10 years old and has served as her companion and caretaker. While in Miami, Zoila discovers the fruits of capitalism, throwing yet another monkey wrench into the works.

Lady From Havana is split into two segments. Act 1 documents Gloria's arrival and rocky transition with her daughters. Act 2, set in a funeral parlor, exposits on her death from the perspective of three close friends (played by the same three women). The transition is abrupt and takes a moment to adjust to, but shows the ample talents of the three actors who clearly relish the opportunity to explore the motivation that inspired Gloria's brusque and forceful personality.

Teatro Vision's Lady From Havana closes this weekend (June 12-15) with performances on Thursday (10am and 8pm), Friday-Saturday (8pm) and Sunday (2pm) at the Mexican Heritage Theater, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose. Tickets are $12-$17 and available by calling 408.272.9926 or go to www.teatrovision.org.

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From the June 12-18, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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