At the gates of heaven there is supposed to be the one who separates and in the agony decides who stays, but everyone retraces at the end their own path to the common pain, everyone weaves their own purgatory. “Peggy Picket sees the face of God,” by Roland Schimmelpfenning was the heartrending offering last week by La Compañía del Cuartel at the Brecht Cultural Center in Vedado. The play leads us to a sensitive and controversial theme: how much frustration or personal fulfillment results for a Cuban doctor from working on a collaborative project abroad, versus submerging himself in the everyday here in Cuba.
A dilemma contained in the compelling performance of the young cast, that managed to address a complex and painful reality, which hit close to home for this viewer because of his own status as a Cuban doctor, and friend to some of those who returned from their own Peggy Picket adventures, and so many others who never returned.
All I wanted to saw was there, everything detailed: peering into the unknown, to another dimension of human tragedy; knowing oneself a vehicle of an alien message, moving the pieces at whim of foreign exchange; the grinding poverty that compels one to leave because no one lives on bread alone, because dreams also count and because love isn’t enough; that tearing sacrifice of a couple or a family destroyed in the making; finding yourself besmirched by someone, they told you, who would be like your brother, finding that “…we are not always welcome here, no”… in short, that Peggy Picket… Shows us the dark and human side of the Cuban medical missions, their unconfessed edge, to those who return with a veil of silence drawn in a look.
It proposes an approach to one of the most controversial nerve centers of the reality in my profession: the way going on one of these work missions can affect the life of a professional Cuban who, at least up to the time this work was written, was not allowed to leave the country except under the conditions demanded by the authorities, and never by choice; that once there had to — and still has to — face living in extreme conditions, exposed to risks in unimaginable countries, that come from nature or the hostilities and ingratitude of men, all knowing that they will receive a tiny percent of the money that will be exchanged between the countries, and meanwhile remaining far from their family and all they left behind.
But today, while I applaud La Compañía del Cuartel, I abstain from making a moral judgment; nothing is further from my mind than to launch attacks capable of hurting feelings. It would be very difficult for me to sincerely say what I think without some colleague thinking I’m referring to them. At my age I have learned to be slow to comment on realities I haven’t experienced; at this point I try, above all, not to judge. For thus reason, I decided to let you draw your own conclusions. And Carol and Martin already know their reasons for leaving; Liz and Frank already know why they chose to stay. Better that everyone be left alone with his own conscience.
Jeovany Jimenez Vega
February 4 2013