Posts Tagged ‘bitter fruit’

Bitter Fruit
by Héctor Levy-Daniel
Directed by Philip Boehm
Upstream Theater
October 13, 2023

Jane Paradise, Jennifer Theby-Quinn
Photo by
Upstream Theater

The latest production from Upstream Theater is a small-cast, one act, emotional drama of intrigue and mystery. Bitter Fruit, by Argentinian playwright Héctor Levy-Daniel, is a well-staged, provocative production that will keep audiences thinking. It’s also a showcase for some excellent local performers.

The story isn’t entirely linear, and it’s not always clear what the relationships are, but a lot of that seems to be intentional. There’s an unfolding mystery here, beginning as the wealthy María (Jennifer Theby-Quinn) comes home to the mansion she shares with her mother Teresa (Michele Burdette Elmore) to find a new housemaid, Luisa (Jane Paradise), who María instantly dislikes and distrusts. Luisa is somewhat evasive about her background and why she came to work there, but María is especially unsettled because the new maid seems to be constantly watching her. María is also involved in a dispute with local factory workers who are protesting their working conditions, and some have died under mysterious circumstances. She meets with a representative of the workers, Pedro (Isaiah Di Lorenzo), who is shown through flashbacks to be no stranger to María, although their relationship is much altered from what it had been. While local authorities investigate the suspicious deaths, María has her own secrets to keep, all while she grows ever more suspicious of Luisa. 

It’s a fascinating play, and the performances are especially strong, with Theby-Quinn convincing in the difficult role of the haughty María, who is a compelling character even if she isn’t especially likable. Paradise also makes a strong impressive as the evasive but determined Luisa, and Di Lorenzo has some excellent scenes with Theby-Quinn that both add to the mysteries of the story and add depth to their situations. There’s also a strong performance from Elmore as the seemingly well-meaning Teresa, who has her own secrets and may know more than she lets on. There are a lot of unanswered questions here, but the drama is intense, the plot unfolds with precisely paced timing, and the cohesive ensemble plays the palpable tension well.

The set by Patrick Huber and lighting by Steve Carmichael, along with Michele Siler’s costumes, add to the overall mood and atmosphere of the production. There’s also an excellent, evocative musical score, performed live on guitar by Lliam Christy, who plays with skill and energy, adding to the emotional vibe of the story.

Overall, this is an intriguing St. Louis premiere production, looking at a time in relatively recent Argentinian history that might not be familiar to American audiences. There’s a useful note in the program from the University of Pennylvania’s Dr. Jennifer Joan Thompson, explaining some of the context. Bitter Fruit is another thought-provoking work of theatre from Upstream. 

Jennifer Theby-Quinn, Michele Burdette Elmore
Photo by
Upstream Theater

Upstream Theater is presenting Bitter Fruit at the Marcelle Theatre until October 29, 2023

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