By Mia Leonin
Special to The Miami Herald
Felicia is loud and judgmental. She broadcasts her views in ear-piercing octaves. She offends strangers by dishing out her opinion on their lack of manners and fashion sense. You’ve seen her at the grocery store, in waiting rooms or at the movies. Now you can see her on stage in Teatro en Miami Studio’s latest production, Fifty Fifty.
Written and directed by Ernesto García, this Spanish-language comedy with English supertitles takes place at a bus stop in an unnamed city. Featuring Sandra García as the cantankerous 60-year-old Felicia, it occurs over the course of a year. Each act represents a new season and an intense encounter between Felicia and someone waiting for the bus. With the exception of a hairdresser (Simone Balmaseda) who is an old friend, all the exchanges are with strangers. Anniamary Martínez plays an actress, Carlos Bueno is a thief and Osvaldo Strongoli a successful businessman.
Fifty Fifty is a series of dialogues with little action, but the sharp social commentary and intriguing personalities make it engaging. More so than any of Ernesto García’s other plays, the comedy delves into the female psyche, and the result is fascinating and hilarious.
Simone Balmaseda brings depth and humor to her character, a vivacious, flashy hairdresser. In one scene, she and Felicia reflect on the old days when women were limited to becoming wives or prostitutes. In an uproarious display of hyperbole, Balmaseda imitates a woman washing clothes by hand who laments that she can’t have the independence of the town’s whores. She rants about how they get to struggle alone, abort babies and serve as a repository for all of the town’s venereal diseases. Balmaseda’s crude gyrations and mocking tone create an outrageous and startling portrait.
Likewise, the chemistry between García and Anniamary Martínez , a self-centered young actress, is explosive. Martínez’s character doesn’t stand a chance against Felicia’s acerbic one-liners. But when the young woman finally blows her top, she becomes surprisingly powerful and vulnerable. Martínez has participated in several Teatro en Miami Studio productions, and this is her most nuanced performance yet.
Sandra García’s portrayal of Felicia is stellar. Her face is a theatrical feast of expressions as she scoffs, glowers and scowls. When she criticizes women who undergo plastic surgery, her face stretches into a Martian-like mask. She manages to strip her counterparts of their facades, but she also has secrets, and they gradually become the backbone of this poignant comedy.
While the setting remains anonymous, it bears a striking resemblance to Miami. It’s a city plagued with poverty and blessed with natural beauty and, like Fifty Fifty, it’s hilariously and heartbreakingly authentic.
IF YOU GO
What: “Fifty Fifty” by Ernesto Garcia
Where: Teatro en Miami Studio, 2500 SW Eighth St., Miami
When: 8:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, through May 14
Cost: $20 (free to Teatro en Miami members)
Info: 305-551-7473, www.teatroenmiami.org