PREVIEW: Ceviche o No Ceviche - A Fresh and Zesty Stage Novela By Elizabeth Rosa Houck


Stories about people of color are far and few in between in the stage scene; stories featuring people of color in intercultural non-monogamous romantic relationships are unheard of. Ceviche o No Ceviche is a refreshing, tangy piece of theatre that inhabits a space outside of classic plays about love. Ceviche o No Ceviche is a modern-day novela through and through: it is seasoned with humor, camp, family drama, twists, and lots of love. 

The story’s main course is a relationship triad among Sol (Lucy Jaimes), Keith (James Frush-Marple), and Robert (José Luís Gallardo). Through their saccharine and silly interactions, the audience is brought into [insert today’s date] 2019: there is a mention of House of Cards and Queer Eye as the triad’s favorite shows, the current presidential administration, the topic of immigration and the path to citizenship being a trepidatious and nearly impossible one. Together, they try to figure how to support Sol on her path to United States citizenship at the end of her student visa, as she is originally from Colombia. Following some very brief discussion, Sol and Keith both decide to get married to kill two birds with one stone (or, matar dos pájaros de un tiro), at once committing their love to each other and solidifying Sol’s ability to stay in the United States. Even with this decision for Sol and Keith to be legally wed, the triad is certain that their relationship will remain the same. In the way of any feel-good rom-com about people from different backgrounds, hijinks peppered with humor and cultural clashes ensue. Throw in a Catholic priest and all the drama of planning any wedding, and we have ourselves something worth savoring.

Meeting Sol’s parents, Dulce and Jesús played by Julia Vargas Pardo and Marco Marmolejo respectively, via a Skype conversation (classic ringtone known by anyone who has tried to keep a close connection via modern technology included) feels authentic and warm. Vargas Pardo’s performance gives the feeling of a true Latina mother: opinionated, animated, loving, intense, dramatic. Her fire is met with the calm, cool energy of Jesús, and later, her cerebral, comedic sister Cuco (Mayte Velasco Nicolas). Sol and her parents’ Skype conversation also offers the audience a sense of the distance Sol must feel with her family. There is unconditional love but also a lack of understanding: Sol’s somewhat tedious explanation to her parents about the important of Queer Studies is just a microcosm of their traditional values, especially in terms of relationships. Upon Sol mentioning that she would be marrying Keith, a Protestant gringo, there are immediate, repeated assumptions that Sol is pregnant. Because if she is not pregnant, she would marry a Catholic instead. Despite Sol’s protestations and her parents’ reluctance to accept a Protestant groom, wedding bells will still ring. 

Familial relations remain a theme, though Keith and his mother, Linda (Betsy Newman), certainly have a more strained mother-son relationship. Upon Keith sharing his nuptial news with his mother, she shares her intense and bigoted discomfort with him marrying someone who is not a sweet tea-drinking, pickled sauage-eating Baptist white woman like herself. The conversation is heard through bitten tongues: Linda is as proper as she is ignorant in her views of people with backgrounds and beliefs different than her own. Admittedly, as a Mexican-American audience member, it was yet another reminder for me of how much hate someone can hold toward a particular group of people for no reason other than their existence. Ironically enough, this same sober, spiritually-minded mother falls for Sol’s uncle, Juan de Dios (Ysaul Flores), a Catholic priest who actually baptizes Keith and weds the couple. Star-crossed lovers, indeed.

The phrase “killing two birds with one stone” is mentioned three times throughout the play. The phrase is significant for its repetition but also because it serves as the impetus for the entire show. Sol and Keith get married for both love and to secure Sol’s path to citizenship. The play itself attempts un tiro to take on queerness, non-monogamy/polyamory, intercultural interactions where Colombia meets Columbia, religious differences, marriage traditions, and familial expectations (to name a few). Leaving no stone unturned even in its staging, Spanish-to-English subtitles of the dialogue are displayed on monitors to invite intercultural interactions, which is especially important as much of the show is in Spanish. I was impressed to learn that the play owes its charm to its writers who are no other than the very actors who bring the story to life. While I enjoyed the exploration of seldom discussed topics, the story spills out a little beyond its edges. Somewhere between all this, I felt the compounding of identities and storylines but also the challenge to wrangle all of these identities, even further complicated by a collaborative voice in the play. Tropes and stereotypes surrounding queerness, Latinidad, and the South rear their heads inconsistently and land somewhat awkwardly on attentive ears. Still, the heart of the show is pure and good, and the labor of Love’s work emanates from it. And we could all use a little more love.

Get your fill on Friday, September 13 at 8:00 PM, and Saturday, September 14 at 3:00 and 8:00 PM at Trustus Side Door Theater.