Sandra Marquez is a wily sort of actor, elegant and brutal and earthy. This is a face you want to watch. It would be nice if you could actually see it in the Goodman production of “Mariela in the Desert, ” a Mexican-set dreamscape of a play by Karen Zacarias about a family of painters and their thwarted artistic ambitions. Gone is the raised proscenium stage in the Goodman’s smaller Owen theater, which opens up a roomy, floor-level playing area for the ensemble. But without adequate seating risers for the audience, you’re left staring at the back of the head in front of you for much of the performance. Director Henry Godinez is no novice and should know better. The play itself is a conundrum, a complex little bundle of nerves that touches on everything from martial ennui to long-held resentments that have all but numbed the title character (Marquez) to an emotional exile in the desert with her dying, blowhard of a husband. Are these people caricatures or metaphors? Either way, they are not terribly interesting. But Marquez makes the most of her role, a slyly comedic woman who is at once cool to the touch and burning with resentment. The play also taps into one of the more insightful truisms of its setting. After hearing of Mariela’s childhood—a tall tale threaded with violent clichés and lies—a visiting American can only exclaim, “That’s terrible.” Mariela’s blasé and deadpan reply: “That’s Mexico.” (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.