Medianoche's Children

Midnight Sandwich/Medianoche

The most powerful part of Medianoche is the segment in which Melinda gets her mother to describe a prison visit to her father, an early supporter of Castro later imprisoned with many other Cuban men for reasons that are never forthcoming. "These questions only get answers in a democracy," he asserts. The story is chilling on its own terms. Whether it's true to the letter or not, the experiences described here are, by all accounts, representative of what many Cubans endured. As family history it's also wrenching. How many children grow to discover that their parents' pasts aren't as simple as they assumed or without long-term effects? You don't have to be a child of Holocaust survivors or of Cuban exiles to understand the implications of learning what forces shaped the people who raised you.

Melinda Lopez depicts a daughter/sister/ niece to whom anyone can relate
Melinda Lopez depicts a daughter/sister/ niece to whom anyone can relate

Lest you get the idea that the charm of Medianoche is all in Lopez talking, let me assure you that the design elements are also marvelous, despite the obstructed sightlines of the Coconut Grove Playhouse's tiny Encore Room. Not the least among many good ideas is the use of Tom Petty's song "American Girl" to open the show. Steve Lambert's minimalist set consists of a frame suggesting the neoclassic pediments of a New England house. The open area inside the frame contains a box from which Lopez pulls the bits of clothing that augment her characters' identities. A small sleeping space is nestled between two columns. Here Lopez snuggles under a quilt as the show opens. She wakes to the sound of her radio, giving a weather report that segues into a monologue that merges with Melinda's subconscious. From this point the actress fuses her dreams with her memories, inviting us to enjoy the dramatic equivalent of a very tasty snack indeed.

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