WINTER UNDER THE TABLE
nytheatre.com review by Joe Murphy
Winter Under the Table, written by
Roland Topor, a Polish-Jewish immigrant to France, was originally titled
L’hiver sous la Table in its original French and receives its
world premiere in English (with a bit of Spanish) here by Actors of the
World. Marco Aponte, who translated the play along with director Lance
Lattig, plays the part of Francisco, an illegal Latin American immigrant
who rents a space under the dining-room table of a lonely
American woman. This outrageous premise, juxtaposed against the mundane
domestic interactions of the two during the first few scenes, creates
what starts out to be a politically-loaded and hilarious anti-drama.
Claire (Sarah Matthay), a translator who toils away inches above
Francisco’s head, provides the slightly-embarrassed bourgeois manners,
bookish good looks and great legs that slowly drive Francisco wild. When
not working as a shoe-shiner off stage, he in turn is the bumbling and
eager-to-please innocent who wins her heart. Romance happens. Comedy
ensues. What the plot lacks in suspense, the players make up for with
charm and an unabashed embrace of the obvious plot destinations, such as
the growing attraction and the inevitable mutual seduction of the
August 15, 2002
As the play expands, it initially maintains the delicate balance of social satire and romantic cutesiness. The new characters (Alexander, the unctuous American boyfriend and boss, played by Mitchel Syp; Tricia, the bad best friend, played by Amy Dickinson; and Gustavo, Francisco’s guitar-playing cousin, played by Ruben Luque), bring new possibilities for mining the politically-incorrect housing situation. (If you had a Latino under your table, how would you show him off to your best girlfriend?)
Just when you think it will explode into outright farce, the play instead drifts into romantic comedy. The broad social commentary implied early in the play dissipates gradually until the final moment answers the question of the ages: will they or won’t they get together in the end?
The minimal set and colorful scenic design help foster the innocent spirit that aids the dual sides of the political and romantic fairy tale. Live guitar and bongo beats between scenes by Michael Croiter, poised at the end of the stage, provide a Latin atmosphere and appropriate emotional tenor to the drama.
This play might not know what it wants to be, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.