Theater: Cristina García’s “King of Cuba”


King of Cuba, a play based on Cuban-American award-winning author Cristina García’s eponymous novel, opens with a press night on Saturday, July 21, and runs through August 19 (previews July 19 and 20), 2018, at the Berkeley City Club, in Berkeley, California. It is directed by Gary Graves. Broadway World reports:

The summer adventure of the Central Works 2018 season King of Cuba is developed by Ms. García in the Central Works Writers Workshop featuring the lesbian-gender-bending comedian Marga Gomez, and the Grammy-winning “bongocero” Carlos Caro. All are Cubanx celebrities living in the Bay Area. [. . .]

Central Works 60th world premiere is the first production for National Book Award finalist Cristina García. With García’s similarly titled novel as its inspiration, her play intertwines the stories of two combative octogenarian Cubans: the vainglorious Cuban dictator, “El Comandante,” who struggles to maintain a tenuous grip on power, and the irascible exile, Goyo Herrera, who seethes in Miami, hell-bent on sending El Comandante to his grave. Both wrestle with loves lost, people wronged, the frailties of old age, and the legacies they’ll soon enough be leaving behind.

García developed this stage adaptation of her novel in the Central Works Writers Workshop. Marga Gomez is transcending her usual solo-comic boundaries (“She’s like a lesbian Lenny Bruce,”-Robin Williams) to portray El Comandante, a gender-bending, satirical homage to Fidel Castro. Throughout the play, the virtuoso drumming of Carlos Caro becomes the character of Cuba itself, weaving through the tumultuous action and binding the characters together. The production features six Latinx actors in a myriad of roles, guided by Gary Graves direction. Ms. García remarks, “The idea for King of Cuba-both the novel, and its theatrical adaptation-emerged from years of thinking and writing about Cuba. Half my family left the island and its new revolution when I was three years old; the other half remained by choice. My maternal grandmother, in particular, was a vocal supporter of Fidel Castro, while her own daughter (my mother) was an equally passionate opponent. It is this deep, decades-long rift-with its seemingly insoluble problems, bad blood and endless propaganda-that has dominated the Cuban cultural and political landscape for the last sixty years. This is my attempt to wrestle with-in a darkly comic, satirical fashion-the intransigencies on both sides of this political divide.”

Cristina García is the author of seven novels, including: Dreaming in Cuban, The Agüero Sisters, Monkey Hunting, A Handbook to Luck, The Lady Matador’s Hotel, King of Cuba, and Here in Berlin. García has edited two anthologies, Cubanísimo: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Cuban Literature and Bordering Fires: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Mexican and Chicano/a Literature. Two works for young readers, The Dog Who Loved the Moon, and I Wanna Be Your Shoebox, were published in 2008 and a young adult novel, Dreams of Significant Girls, in 2011. A collection of poetry, The Lesser Tragedy of Death, was published in 2010. García’s work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into fourteen languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and an NEA grant, among others. She is the founder and artistic director of Las Dos Brujas Writers’ Workshops and lives in the San Francisco Bay area. [. . .]

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