Manhatitlán

Presented by the seventh annual New York International Fringe Festival and Actors of the World, a production of the Present Company, at Westbeth Community Center, 155 Bank St., NYC, Aug. 9-21.

"Manhatitlán" is a poignant, well-acted portrayal of a less-often-told classic immigrant story. We've all seen many versions of tales of intergenerational conflict and assimilation, but this is the experience of a lonely worker, Antonio (Marco Aponte), who lives in a tiny room, but whose emotional life is rooted in his home village far away. His days consist of toil to send money to a home he may not see again for years. The word "Manhatitlán" is a combination of "Manhattan" and a typical Mexican town name suffix.

The story—an uncredited adaptation of a French-Caribbean play, "Ton Beau Capitaine" by Simone Schwartz-Bart—is portrayed very effectively as Antonio eagerly listens to an audio letter on tape sent by his wife, Maria (voice of Isabela Méndez). His actions are simple—changing from his work clothes, unpacking a bag of groceries, pausing to react to every bit of news from home. The letter starts lovingly: Maria repeatedly sings about the sadness of separation. It progresses to mundane news, to sad news about a friend's death, and then escalates as the effects the longtime separation has had on the marriage emerge.

Aponte expresses a range of emotions delicately. He goes from naïve astonishment to self reproach to boastful swagger to rage to endearing sweetness as he admits to his own loneliness and expresses empathy for Maria's. He starts to question everything about his life. Antonio is a good person with an understanding of human nature. The contrast between these traits and his obviously low status within the world of Manhattan is clear.

Director Lance Lattig has done an excellent job. The set and the entire atmosphere are indeed a touch of Mexico in Manhattan. A dream sequence, shown in a video by Jim White, works well. "Manhatitlán" is a moving slice of life.