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Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary: In-Fidel

Ed Rampell: If the playwright/performer is also going to kvetch about Fidel’s supposed unfulfilled promise to hold free elections, fair enough, but how about mentioning Cuba’s historic role in militarily smashing South Africa’s apartheid forces in southern Africa?

Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary is a one-woman show written and performed by Marissa Chibas, who has an intriguing pedigree. According to the hour-or-so production her mother was a beauty pageant runner-up, while Marissa’s father, Raúl Chibas, was an early Fidel Castro supporter who co-signed a revolutionary manifesto with him in 1957. Raúl’s brother, Marissa’s uncle, was Eddy Chibas, founder of the Orthodox Party and a radio commentator (who was depicted by Ismael Carlo in the 2002 TV movie Fidel, which co-starred Gael Garcia Bernal as Che Guevara before he reprised his role in 2004’s The Motorcycle Diaries). This plot spoiler averse reviewer won’t reveal what Eddy did live on the air, but let’s just say it might have given Paddy Chayefsky some ideas when he wrote 1976’s Network.

Cuban Revolutionary

While this may be a one-person show, it’s definitely not a one character play, as Marissa portrays a variety of roles, male and female. Her transitions from one of the various dramatis personae to another mostly seems to flow naturally, except in the beginning when she’s supposed to be immersed in water and almost drowning. When she cries out, “I’m drowning!” you can tell Ms. Chibas is acting, not being. Fortunately, after several flashbacks, Daughter loses this conceit.

There is some audio-visual accompaniment with video and sound design by, respectively, Adam Flemming and Daniel Barsky. It seems like an interesting notion to combine cinematic techniques and technology with a live performance, but Daughter just touches upon this, without fully developing it in this piece directed by Mira Kingsley.

To some extent Daughter sheds light on Cuban history. But Marissa’s father eventually defected from Cuba as the revolution took a sharp turn to the Left. A bourgeois democrat, Raúl relocated the family north to the Yanqui colossus, where the uprooted Marissa grew up as one of what the Revolution’s true believers called “gusanos”, or “worms.” The play is largely about this “in-Fidel’s” efforts to reconnect with her roots -- hardly a new theme by any stretch of the imagination, but usually an absorbing one.

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Which it is here. But the big problem with Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary is that politically it is arguably counterrevolutionary. Cuba’s no Utopia, and it’s fair enough to complain about this experiment in tropical socialism. But if one grouses about the fear of being overheard, isn’t it fair to also mention that: The Yanqui imperialists hadn’t invaded Cuba in 1961; provoked the so-called “Cuban Missile Crisis” (which could also be called the “Legitimate Act of Self-Defense from a War Mongering Neighbor” effort); tried to assassinate Fidel countless times through Operation mongoose (hey, gracias Kennedy Brothers!); blockaded the country for half a century with an economic embargo currently opposed by the entire international community (except for a few flunky client regimes)? If a belligerent, bossy, much larger and more powerful northern neighbor is constantly trying to liquidate your leader with poison cigars and the like, perhaps it’s understandable why one would have to maintain a vigilant security apparatus. (As if America’s NSA, CIA, FBI aren’t snooping on millions of us, imprisoning and torturing “detainees” at Guantanamo -- which, ironically, is located in Cuba.)

Cuban Revolutionary

And if the playwright/performer is also going to kvetch about Fidel’s supposed unfulfilled promise to hold free elections, fair enough, but how about mentioning Cuba’s historic role in militarily smashing South Africa’s apartheid forces in southern Africa? And the fact that much smaller, poorer Cuba has sent more health workers to fight Africa’s current Ebola epidemic than any other country on Earth, including the USA (which still -- unlike Cuba for half a century -- can’t and/or won’t provide universal healthcare for all of its people)? Fair is fair, and Angelenos deserve better than yet another one-sided diatribe against revolutionary Cuba, which is a sort of ideological embargo.

Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary is part of the month-long Encuentro (Encounter) theatre festival at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, bringing together 19 theatre companies and 150 artists presenting 17 Latino-themed productions.

Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary is being performed Saturdays Nov. 1 at 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and November 8 at 2:30 p.m.; and on Friday Nov. 7 at 8:30 p.m. in LATC’s The Gallery. For online tickets see: thelatc.org/upcoming-shows/daughter-of-a-cuban-revolutionary/. Encuentro is being presented through Nov. 10 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., CA 90013. For more info: (866) 811-4111; http://thelatc.org/encuentro2014/. For listings of Encunetro’s free events see: http://thelatc.org/encuentro2014/free-events/

Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell

L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell co-authored "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book" (see:http://hawaiimtvbook.weebly.com/).