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Kissing Fidel

Eduardo Machado can't make up his mind whether his new play, "Kissing Fidel," is meant to be surrealistic, a black comedy, or a tragedy. So many bizarre events take place at the Miami funeral home where the Marques matriarch is being given the last rites that the play ends up as a farce. Director Michael John Garc辿s, who has often worked with Machado, is unable to keep a tight hold on these anarchic proceedings, some of which are very funny, though others fall flat.

Cuban-born writer Oscar Marques appears at the Miami funeral of his grandmother in 1994 to announce that he is returning to Havana to ask Castro's forgiveness. This links up with Machado's "Floating Island" tetralogy, which ended in 1979 at a California wedding of the exiled Marques clan.

The play compares the points of view of four disparate groups: Cuban exiles who have become fully Americanized, exiles who think of their life in Miami as a nightmare from which they will awaken, "Pedro Pan" exiles who were airlifted to America in 1961 and have always felt alienated, and Cubans born in America who have no personal ties to the homeland.

Don't blame the actors for the inconsistencies in tone and style, as they are asked to seesaw wildly between over-the-top histrionics and deadly serious dialectic. Karen Kondazian's castrating Cuban Medea, Aunt Miriam, and Judith Delgado's utterly humorless Aunt Yolanda would be funnier acted in a less portentous style. As for Oscar, Bryant Mason's black sheep of the family confuses us with his ambivalence over his homosexuality, epilepsy, former marriage, novels he has written revealing family secrets, and imminent return to Cuba. Little wonder that both Lazaro Perez as his father, who must admit to incest with his brother, and Javier Rivera as Cousin Daniel, whose mother catches him masturbating at his grandmother's funeral, seem uncomfortable in their roles.

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