Lennox Theatre, July 29


Camila Ponte Alvarez, and, top and below, with Caspar Haraker. Photos: Phil Erbacher.

Camila Ponte Alvarez brings such vivacity to the role of Lucia as to make every line and spit and sizzle with humour, contempt, joy, angst and scheming calculation. Her eyes flash as her arms, hands and fingers continually trace acute angles in the air – just as her character is trying to get an angle on her job; trying to get an angle on being Mexican in the USA.

Having published a novel, Lucia has been picked up by a Hollywood studio as a token Latina in a factory churning out TV scripts. It’s a very white-bread world, except for Abel (Caspar Hardaker), a cleaner of Mexican heritage. Tanya Saracho’s dazzling, sassy, endlessly pertinent play (here having its world premiere) explores the relationship between these two “foreigners” in what has become their homeland. The dramatic irony is low-hanging fruit throughout, as Lucia’s complaints about the way she is treated – right from having her name mispronounced, it being Loo-see-a in Spanish – are matched by the classist, racist assumptions she makes about Abel (A-bel) and he makes about her.

Hardaker is equally good in what is mostly the more wary, impassive role, listening to Lucia’s rants and tantrums, before he fully rises to the challenge of recounting the domestic horrors of Abel’s failed marriage. Under Jeneffa Soldatic’s direction (for National Theatre of Parramatta), there’s a deep truth between these two actors as their characters start to bond; as Lucia learns Abel’s secrets, and he learns just how manipulative she can be.

Abel is as earthy as Lucia is flighty, and the performers ensure we swiftly come to like them both, before the play follows them across the passage of a couple of months. It’s all just set in Lucia’s office, the conceit being that she works late, which is when he’s vacuuming, emptying her bin, fixing her collapsing shelf and unstable desk, and, in a cute metaphor, setting up a new lamp to shine a light on her life.

Across the one hour and fifty minutes, Lucia changes, the industry she started off despising having messed with her moral compass. Abel, by contrast, never loses track of due north. Melanie Liertz’s set, Rita Naidu’s costumes, Daniel Herten’s music and Jasmine Rizk’s lighting all contribute, without distracting us from two of the performances of the year.