14ymedio, Yania Suarez, Havana, 19 November 2015 – The presentation of Cuban Coffee by Portazo’s Cooperative was a public success during the Havana Theater Festival and is currently a success in Matanzas, its place of origin. Staged by the Matanzan group El Portazo and directed by Pedro Franco, the spectacle seeks – in addition to being profitable – to discuss the problem of Cubans’ prosperity, “starting with economic research based on our present reality.”
The group offers an ingenious show where theatrical drama merges with cabaret and the public is treated like customers enjoying the artistic and gastronomic offerings of El Portazo cooperative.
Cuban Coffee raises the dilemma of the recent changes in the island’s economy that harms natives while benefitting foreign investors. During the play, these latter are equated to “invaders” through scenes recalling the fights for independence and tributes to the heroes of these events, along with a question about love of country that is repeated on several occasions.
A fragment titled “The Taking of Havana by the English” traces the tragedy of Pepe Antonio, native of Guanabacoa and still living, who leaves the country because he got tired of living off tourist tips, wants an iPhone, and what he hates most is “working for the English.” His story manages some good moments that successfully mix tragedy and comedy.
This emotional and direct rebellion that gains strength in the first two acts, is diluted in the last act
The audience was especially excited about the reference to the real drama of a generation that has abandoned the country en masse, as well as by the reading of a letter from Leonor Perez to his son in exile. The laughter grew with the first appearance of the militia character, a drag queen in a wig with a pink gun, who launches an act of repudiation against the young people who are leaving, while she points her gun and dubs Rata de Dos Patas (Two-legged Rat), a famous song by the Mexican Paquita la del Barrio that went viral on YouTube.
During a good part of the show there are statements of rebellion and independence. However, regrettably, this emotional and direct rebellion that gains strength in the first two acts, is diluted in the last act, titled “Where we attend morning assemblies so as not to lose the tradition of dialog and our basic naivete” where the criticism exhibited becomes “constructive criticism.”
The “constructive criticism” must meet two unalterable premises. The first is that the government is capable of solving the problem, and second, that the time frame to reach the solution is undefined (and even infinite). If the criticism fails to meet these requirements, the criticism is considered an attack and the person making it is an enemy of the people. More than criticism, it’s about a statement of faith.
After so much exciting rebellion and the demand for so much courage, at the end of the show there is a sense of retreat. The Militant protests because her life project is happening “in slow motion,” as troubadour Erick Sanchez’s song says, but an infinite time credit is extended to those responsible for it. It calls for respect for its opinion without having distinguished it from that of the powers that be, and falls back on official euphemisms, but just shows its obedience and diminishes its voice. It is a shame that in a work so well staged, it ends this way.