In an unnamed city, in an unnamed country, three men wrestle with a universal moral dilemma: Are unethical actions justifiable when they are committed for the sake of a greater good? Wisely, the Spanish-language play, Tres Hombres de Bien (Three Good Men), written by Andrea Bauab, an Argentinian, and directed by John Rodaz at Area Stage, addresses the dilemma without purporting to solve it. In fact, with each plot twist, the play immerses its characters further into a moral quagmire that has no clear escape route. Despite sometimes uneven acting, Tres Hombres de Bien is a timely political drama.
Together, childhood friends Judge Ignacio Arguello (Jorge Hernández) and Dr. Bernardo Beckerman (Osvaldo Strongoli) are running for prominent political positions in hopes of changing the current defunct, corrupt political system.
Spoiler alert: Arguello and Beckerman’s political ambitions are threatened by scandal when Beckerman is implicated in the hit-and-run death of a young boy. At the center of the scandal is a struggling, idealistic journalist, Federico Ibañez, (Roberto San Martin) who happens to be the only witness to the accident. While Ibañez’s testimony might bring some peace of mind and justice to the victim’s grief-stricken mother, it would also destroy the political candidates’ chances to make more far-reaching changes to a corrupt system.
The most deftly drawn character of Tres Hombres de Bien is Judge Arguello, vividly portrayed by Hernández. Hernández’s ability to vacillate from a cool and calculating politician to a compassionate and concerned citizen lends his character dimension and dramatic gravitas. Hernández’s performance is seasoned with the gestural and vocal nuances that distinguish live theater from television and cinema.
On another level, Arguello’s dry cynicism serves as a humorous counterpoint to the more subdued and often apprehensive Dr. Beckerman. I would have liked to have seen the director draw more from Beckerman’s performance to emphasize this contrast.
Initially, Laura Ferretti as the devastated mother feels somewhat stiff although later in the play, her tirade against the politicians packs a punch. Victoria Murtagh adds an element of comic relief as Ibañez’s high-strung, materialistic wife. As the conflicted journalist, San Martin’s character is most compelling when he is on the right side of justice. At other times, he doesn’t seem to fully connect with the other characters.
Bauab’s play does not miraculously fish these characters from the moral morass they’ve waded into, which underscores the complexity of the play’s theme. However, the final plot twist of Tres Hombres de Bien is definitive and the play’s emotional crescendo makes for an interesting drama.