When I secured tickets for Michael John Garcés’ Acts of Mercy: passion-play, the PR rep took my name and remarked, “Good — you’re Latina.” True, but unfortunately not even my inherent Guatemalan heat endeared me to this show. Sure, it helped when characters lapsed into Spanish beyond puta, but it couldn’t overcome awkward dialogue and nearly two hours of hysterical, aimless, relentless shouting.
Mira. Of course, intensity will ensue when two damaged sons try to make peace with their dying father while dealing with equally damaged family members and the scornful woman who is passed between them like a doobie. But how often can a person shriek “fuck!” — or any word — and retain its meaning? Crazy Cubanos — is it you or the direction? Regardless, Acts’ passion is prevented from building naturally, resulting in needlessly uneven performances and headaches. When one shouting match culminates in a fist to the face the blow seems to come out of nowhere, like most of the plot’s nebulous revelations.
There are bright spots, though — like Jenny Maguire’s eyelid-fluttering hicky stripper — and the few moments when the actors don’t shout reveal solid, nuanced acting. Andrés Munar — brilliant in 2005’s Kissing Fidel — is formidable here, particularly in his final scenes when allowing the intensity to come from his words rather than his volume. Catch this play if you like twisted families, or are deaf and read lips. Being Latino just might help too.