Step into the critic’s shoes Sunday at LALT

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By Kirsten Laskey

Art is never static. The last word can be typed on the page or the curtain can fall after the final scene, but the work still goes on. For instance, local playwright Robert Benjamin wrote “Parted Waters” and had it performed in Phoenix. Since then, the play has been through some revisions and Benjamin is ready to unveil “Parted Waters,” in its newest form to Los Alamos.

The presentation will be made through a staged reading, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Los Alamos Little Theater. The reading will be followed by a post-show discussion with the director, cast and playwright.

The reading is co-produced by Teatro Paraguas of Santa Fe. Additionally, several actors from Teatro Paraguas will participate in the reading. Argos MacCallum will play Reynaldo, Tom Romero will be Javier, Angelo Jaramillo will perform the role of Miguel and Lisa Friedland will play Rachel.

Fran Martone directs the play.   “Parted Waters” is about three generations of Hispanics struggling with their crypto-Jewish ancestry. Reynaldo, the oldest family member, embraces their heritage while his son, Javier, rejects it and the youngest family member, Miguel, is in the dark about his family’s past.

Crypto-Judaism can refer to different historical circumstances of hidden Jewish identity, Benjamin explained.  Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 and settled in Mexico. However, when the Holy Office of the Inquisition came to Mexico, they fled to the northern frontier of New Spain, which is now the American Southwest.

These Jews were cut off from mainstream Judaism but they secretly passed Jewish traditions from generation to generation, Benjamin said.

In his revisions, Benjamin explained, he tried “to make parts of the play more engaging.”

During its run in Phoenix, he said some parts played well with the audience while others were not as appreciated. Therefore, Benjamin said he tried to make those troubling parts more engaging.

Did it work?

“That’s what I’ll find out (at the reading),” he said. “The proof is in the pudding. The audience gets to decide whether the changes work or not. In theatre, the audience is the final critic.”

So far, Benjamin has enjoyed what the audience has had to say. “I’ve really enjoyed the audience’s response to the issues raised by the play,” he said.

The audience is not the only one paying attention to the play; “Parted Waters” also caught the attention of Teatro Paraguas.

MacCullum said Benjamin brought the script to the theatre group and they decided to give it a try.  He explained lately there seems to be a lot of interest in the whole idea of Crypto-Jews.Plus, the play hit home for him personally since he grew up in Albuquerque and he interacted with people similar to Reynaldo.  He said, “I think Robert has written the characters quite well. The conflict between the three generations is quite strong in the play. I think that’s going to be the main point that the audience is going to get.”

Although this is the first time MacCullum has acted in one of Benjamin’s plays, he said he has viewed several of the author’s short plays and staged readings.

He added that the audience should enjoy “Parted Waters.”  

“It’s a very important part of New Mexico’s history and it also in a way transcends the particulars of the family in the play,” MacCullum said. “It’s an issue everyone faces – how does one hold on to one’s roots and function in modern society? And there’s a lot of humor in the play.”  

Los Alamos National Bank is sponsoring the reading. Also, Teatro Paraguas plans to do a full production sometime next year.