Tragedy and enduring pain know no country, culture or language.
Just two weeks ago, a still-unknown driver hit and ran over a 6-year-old Miramar boy before speeding away, leaving behind a dead child and grieving family. A similar tragedy, one with an aftermath steeped in politics and morality, is at the heart of Andrea Bauab’s play Tres hombres de bien (Three Good Men), a gripping drama that will get its United States premiere at Coral Gables’ Area Stage this weekend.
Bauab, an Argentine playwright now living in Tel Aviv, founded and ran Compañia Judio Contemporáneo (the Contemporary Jewish Theater Company) in Buenos Aires before moving to Israel. Her play has been performed in Spanish and Hebrew, and after its run in Spanish at Area Stage, it will get its first English-language performances by the same cast of telenovela , film and stage actors.
Tres hombres de bien is the first production in a revived Area Stage initiative dubbed Project Eñe. While the company’s economic mainstay is its thriving and highly regarded conservatory program for young actors, that stability is allowing Area to stage another production for the region’s diverse adult theater lovers. The idea is to find strong scripts by Hispanic playwrights and bring them to Miami audiences in both Spanish and English, showcasing bilingual performers in the process, say Area’s founder-artistic director John Rodaz, executive director Maria Rodaz and independent television-theater producer Miguel Ferro.
“I saw it in Puerto Rico two years ago, then I went to Israel and met Andrea,” says Ferro, who reached out to numerous actors to let them know of the Area production. “I called Maria [Rodaz] about it, then she read it and went, ‘Wow!’ ”
Director John Rodaz auditioned nearly 100 performers over a two-month casting process, looking for actors who were not only just right for the roles but also capable of performing them in both languages.
Says Maria Rodaz, “We wanted to provide these amazing stage actors a bite of the American theater experience.”
Roberto San Martín, one of the stars of the movie Havana Blue, will make his American stage debut as Federico Ibáñez, an Argentine journalist investigating the hit-and-run death of an 8-year-old boy. Jorge Hernández plays Ignacio Argüelles, a respected judge running for governor on an anti-corruption platform, and Osvaldo Strongoli portrays the judge’s running mate and long-time friend, Dr. Berdardo Beckerman. Victoria Murtagh is the journalist’s wife Gabriela, a woman looking for a more comfortable life than the one she shares with her crusader husband. And Laura Ferretti is Carmen Ríos, the grief-stricken mother determined to bring her son’s murderer to justice.
Because the play is set in Argentina, the cast will perform the Spanish-language version with that accent — easy for Ferretti, Murtagh and Strongoli, all from Argentina, but not quite so simple for San Martín and Hernández, who are from Cuba. Yet from their telenovela work, the actors are used to adopting a “neutral” accent, one that doesn’t instantly reveal country or class.
As for doing the play in English, the actors say they’re nervous but up for the challenge.
“I’m nervous, but I’m a little crazy. I think I can do anything,” says San Martín. “It’s like another level, another step in your career. You must take advantage of these opportunities. … Of course we all want to work in English on TV, film and stage.”
“This is my first experience in drama in English, but it’s like, ‘Wake up, Laura!’ I have American butterflies now instead of mariposas,” Ferretti says.
Bauab, who plans to come to Miami to see her play in Spanish and English, writes via email from Israel that, while she thinks the story of Tres hombres de bien is universal, “only an Argentinian or Latin American playwright can write a story like this one.”
Her inspiration and influences were diverse: a letter to the editor from a farm worker, whose son had been killed by a governor’s drunken relatives, expressing doubt that the guilty ones would ever be punished; a comment by the playwright’s son, upset by the lyric “Mama, just killed a man” in Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and her own thought about what a good parent would feel hearing such a confession.
“I connected all of this — acting with impunity, political policies, a child who made a terrible mistake, the devastating consequences for his father’s ambitions,” she writes. “So the result was Three Good Men.”