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The Cook

- Backstage with the Playwrights

The Cook
By Eduardo Machado
Directed by Michael John Garcés
Max Ferrá Founder and Producing Artistic Director

Intar 53
Hispanic American Arts Center
508 West 53rd Street

Producers: Intar and AT&T:OnStage

Starring: Maggie Bofill as Adria and Lourdes,
Zabryna Guevara as Gladys, Jason Madera as Carlos,
Jason Quarles as Julio, and Nilaja Sun as Rosa and Elena

Executive Producer: Andrew Chipok
Production Management: Daedalus Design & Production
Press: Joe Trentacosta at Springer/Chicoine Public Relations

Production Stage Manager: Susan D. Lange
Assistant Director: Hal Brooks

Executive Consultant: Evangeline Morphos
Set Designer: Antje Ellerman
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Hope Clancy
Lighting Designer: Kirk Bookman
Sound Designer: David M. Lawson
Original Music: José Conde
Prop Master: Christie Phillips
Wigs and Makeup: Marisa DeTeresa
Assistant Costume Designer: Kirche Zeile
Assistant Prop Master: Ainat Telem
Assistant Stage Manager: April A. Klein
Draper: George Hudako
Production Assistant: Nathan K. Claus
Wardrobe Supervisor: Jennifer M. Fisher

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 14, 2003

How many plays in NY serve fried bananas before the show and rum at intermission? Good rum, that is. Plus, the audience gets to smell onions, tamales, and vegetables being cut, cubed, and cooked before, during, and after the play. The Cook was one of the best dramatic works I’ve seen in a long time, including those on Broadway! The Cook takes place in one kitchen in a mansion in El Vedado, Havana, in 1958, 1972, and 1997. There is the underlying theme of Pre- and Post- Castro Cuba and the change in lives of former servants – become politicians and former-servants – become mansion residents. There are themes of trust, loyalty, and betrayal, between servants and employers, between a husband and wife, and between straight and gay relatives, during Castro’s repression of Cubans who do not "fit" his social guidelines.

The directing and acting tonight was superb, with Jason Madera presenting a New Year’s Eve personality twist from servant to revolutionary and back, with facial expression and posture, characteristic of each psychological role, with Zabryna Guevara switching from cook/servant to cigar-smoking independent, as Castro’s forces approached town, with Maggie Bofill switching from Landlady/Hostess to escapee to the contemporary role of her Miami-bred daughter, with Jason Quarles switching from lazy servant to courageous gay prey, and with Nilaja Sun switching from kitchen help to Jason’s illegitimate but very loved daughter.

The sets were outstanding, as small pieces of furniture and kitchen tools were exchanged to speed the years, without the need for set renovation, as a constant dramatic theme was Gladys’ tenacity in keeping Adria’s mansion intact and private, awaiting her anticipated return, at the end of Castro’s regime (which obviously never occurred). Makeup, costumes, and acting created the excellent illusion that almost forty years had passed through these kitchen doors, with graying hair, bent shoulders, hoarse throats, blue jeans, and mild manners, while the cookbooks and food remained the same. When the mansion became a high-end, gourmet restaurant, managed by Gladys, husband Carlos, and Carlos’ daughter Elena, the recipes were recycled and the conversation was mature, endearing and familial, more than during the Revolutionary crisis.

The timeline of 50’s Havana ("Hemingway in the bars" and Betty Crocker Cookbook), 70’s Havana (bell-bottomed jeans and Afro hairstyle), and 90’s Havana (daughter Elena’s blue jeans and Adria’s daughter Lourdes’ contemporary outfit) was well developed. This was an extremely satisfying dramatic work, satisfying on all levels. In fact, there was superb Cuban Mambo, reminiscent of Cachao and other Cuban, musical masters, emanating during breaks and sometimes at the opening of scenes. The music evolved to modern Salsa as the years wore on. Kudos to Eduardo Machado, Michael John Garcés, and the entire cast and staff of Intar for this superb evening at the theater. I look forward to attending more performances at Intar, a lovely, small space on the very West Side of the Theater District. I also look forward to seeing more of Eduardo Machado.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at