Kiss Bessemer Goodbye (El beso del adios)
nytheatre.com review by Kristin Skye Hoffmann
March 13, 2010
When I was in sixth grade all the students got to choose a foreign language to study. I told my mom I wanted to take French to which she replied, "You live in Pueblo, Colorado. You're taking Spanish." So I did, for six years. Turns out I retained very little, but that didn't stop me from being drawn back to my little town (the word "Pueblo" actually means "town" in Spanish.) for a brief moment while viewing Kiss Bessemer Goodbye (El beso del adios), by Techa Avila.
This show is performed entirely in Spanish and because I didn't trust myself to follow along as closely as the play deserved, I secured myself a pair of translation earphones to guide me. As it turned out, a quarter way through the show, I stopped wearing them. It was at that point that the show really started to speak to me.
Lupita, played with sweet honesty by Samantha Dagnino, has come home to Pueblo, Colorado (Bessemer is the name of their neighborhood) to celebrate her graduation from Colorado University in Boulder. Her extended family, lead by Aunt Chelo, played with frantic realism by Rosie Berrido, is determined to make this a fancy event, "just like the gringos have." We meet the family one by one, the liquor-store-owner uncle, Chuy (Ernesto del Villa Bejjani), the mother with a fourth grade education (Teresa Yenque), and finally the damaged Uncle Joe (Frank Robles) who has been grounded from work by the Steel Mill strike.
As I grew up I always heard about the Steel Mill works striking until the company closed up shop for good, leaving hundreds of families destitute. It is a timely element of the show, but by no means the main focus. Robles portrays a perfect depiction of what lack of work can do to a prideful man. It is heartbreaking to witness and I believe that if Avila had expanded on this story line, we would have something incredibly special on this stage. Instead she chose a different tale to tell, a short one about the family as a whole.
The show is 90% arguing, mostly over Lupita's choice of a new boyfriend, Stanley (Daniel Isaac), a Japanese American Psych student who is exactly the opposite choice of the family for their prized girl. They also disapprove of her working anywhere outside of their little town, even when opportunities for her present themselves elsewhere. Fighting, fighting, fighting, and yet somehow a little slice of 1970s Mexican American family life has been demonstrated here. Even though the slice is small and the story travels only a short distance we still get to see how traditions have to change, even in families that have lived their traditions every day for generations.
This is a world where everyone speaks their inner monologue and there is little to no subtext on stage. Still, it is worth 75 minutes and is very easy to follow, even without the translation earphones, because there is no subtlety. So even if you aren't fluent, if you love witnessing another culture, even for a moment, take the time to head to the Repertorio Espanol for Kiss Bessemer Goodbye. It was very exciting for me to see a production set in my hometown and I truly enjoyed my experience.