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'Cutting' needs some trimming

May 02, 2003|D.C.N.

The issue of incest provides the impetus for "Cutting Open Wings (Cortando Alas)" in its bilingual West Coast premiere at the MET Theatre. Lidia Ramirez's portrait of sexual abuse within a Caribbean clan is an intelligent attempt at a fresh take on this hot-button topic.

Set in an island village (well designed by Bo Crowell), "Wings" concerns adolescent Xiomara (Onahoua Rodriguez). This innocent is overseen by her grandmother, Mama Llalla (Marlene Forte), her bar-singer aunt, Tia Carmela (Lesley Ann Machado), and her bird-loving uncle, Tio Lorenzo (Jose Solomon).

When Xiomara's widowed father (Steve Wilcox) takes work in New York, things darken. Tio Lorenzo begins paying his niece inappropriate attention, so Mama Llalla sends her to Manhattan, with Lorenzo driving her to the airport.

What transpires en route alters Xiomara forever.

Ramirez's great strength is characterization, which the actors embrace. The eloquent Rodriguez is a find. Machado is funny and convincing, as is Carlo Alban's infatuated neighborhood kid, and Forte steals the show.

Director Alejandro Furth is resourceful but permits some discrepancies.

Though determined, Solomon's pederast is a surface conception, and despite Wilcox's vivid talent, his Nick Nolte quality clashes with the representative casting.

More critically, the metaphor-heavy narrative is uneven, pitting searing thematic content against sunny populist form, which dilutes the intended impact.

The Act 1 curtain seems especially misguided, depicting the abuse in David Lynch fashion and jettisoning suspense.

Though respectable, "Cutting Open Wings" requires a rethink to attain its honorable objective.

"Cutting Open Wings (Cortando Alas)," MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A. Thursdays- Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m., in English; Saturdays, 8 p.m., in Spanish. Ends May 24. $12. (323) 957-1152. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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