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Cuban Culture Clashes Explored in 'Praying'

February 23, 2001|JANA J. MONJI

Luis Santeiro's comedy "Praying With the Enemy" or "Las Papas Papales" (The Pope's Potatoes), at the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, is about cross-cultural clashes during the pope's 1998 visit to Cuba. It's an interesting premise that's served up as bland as plain potatoes.

A Cuban American couple, Adriana (Goreti Da Silva in English and Marie Curie in Spanish) and Arturo (Ernesto Miyares), and a fluff television journalist (Margarita Lamas) follow the pope to Cuba. They meet up with a Cuban family. The mother, Cuqui (Gloria Laino in English and Ana Alfonso in Spanish), is a TV cooking-show host whose recipes are variations on mashed potatoes, due to extreme food shortages. Her husband, Omar (Ray Michaels Quiroga in English and Raul Avila in Spanish), is now a taxi driver, having fallen into disgrace when the baseball team he was managing defected. Their son, Lenny (Alberto Henriquez), is a gigolo who picks up the journalist.

Memories are challenged. Political agendas are expressed. Castro is derided. Adultery is used to spice things up. But under the direction of Margarita Galban, the whole scenario comes off as contrived and cartoonish. The result is a mishmash comedy, less filling than mashed potatoes and lacking the comfort value. --J.J.M.

* "Praying With the Enemy," Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m., alternating weekly in Spanish and English. Ends March 25. $22-$24. (323) 225-4044. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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