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Theater Review: Middle of the World

Ecuador is not the only country on the equator, but it’s where that imaginary line was created, making it the middle of the world. Straddling as it does the northern and southern hemispheres, Ecuador is an appropriate metaphor for divided loyalties.

José Alfonso’s play Middle of the World is a fascinating trip that starts in an Uber. The driver, Victoria Rojas (Cheryl Umaña) turns out to be the deposed president of Ecuador. Her passenger, Glenn Joyner (Christian Telesmar), is a successful Black Wall Street executive.

Glenn and Victoria begin a friendship. Despite a warning from his friend Warren Lim (Dan Lin) that she’s done “some bad shit,” he’s intrigued by her past power and surviving strength. His attraction to her takes him off his game and makes his own power within his company precarious.

Dan Lin and Christian Telesma in Middle of the World. Photo by Jeff Lorch.
Cheryl Umana in Middle of the World. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Victoria’s main purpose is to return to Ecuador and her son. She has a lawyer, Barbara Blanchard (Jennifer Pollono), and a U.S. State Department representative, Bob Gonzalez (Leandro Cano), working, in different ways, on her behalf. Barbara is in a well-lit office, Bob in the shadows, reinforcing U.S. involvement in regime change in Latin America.

Jennifer Pollono and Leandro Cano in Middle of the World. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Director Guillermo Cienfuegos, Rogue Machine’s Cuban-American Artistic Director, brings personal knowledge of the ways government can shatter lives. The show, having its West Coast premiere, is not just a well-told story, it’s a lesson about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that often doesn’t make the history books. The script convincingly juggles two disparate worlds, with unique and vibrant characters and situations. The cast, especially the charismatic Umaña, bring to life some uncomfortable and ugly truths. The set, video projections and musical interludes, however, distract more than they support the proceedings.

With a major plot line involving America’s meddling in South America, Middle of the World recalls Theatre West’s recent Our Man in Santiago, only with more sexy time.

“Middle of the World” from Rogue Machine runs through March 4 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657Melrose Ave. Showtimes are Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9:00pm, Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased here.

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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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