Garbo's Cuban Lover, written, produced and directed by Odalys Nanin and co-directed by Laura Butler, opened at the Macha Theatre in West Hollywood on October 11, 2014, with Odalys Nanin also playing the role of Mercedes de Acosta. The play is Nanin's imagined version of the very real love affairs between the American writer of Cuban descent Mercedes de Acosta and various Hollywood icons, the best known being Greta Garbo.
Nanin based her story on the letters between the two lovers and so begins and ends with the older de Acosta going down memory lane. Boyanna Balta as Mercedes' friend and muse American dancer Isadora Duncan couples with Mercedes in dance and the story begins.
The whole production was in essence a dance as is any love affair a dance. Odalys' full title includes the description "a play with music." But really, it is much more than that. "A play with music and dance" would be the better description. With a sense of musicality, the story danced from scene to scene - moment to momen t- year to year - passion to heartbreak; escorting us through a story sprinkled with liberal amounts of humor and pathos. We laughed and we cried with the vivacious Mercedes de Acosta, a woman ahead of her time and who claimed to be able to "get any woman away from any man."
De Acosta was described by Greta Garbo's biographer, John Bainbridge, as "a woman with a passionate and intense devotion to the art of living," and Nanin lovingly captures this energy in the script, in her direction, and her performance. Boyana Balta is endearing in her performance as dancer Isadora Duncan and she made us laugh in her transition to the ribald Isabella. Angela Nicholas captures the essence of Garbo in both looks and attitude-she just wanted to be alone. Russian Actress Margo Alison portrays Marlene Dietrich with lively verve. Lori Allen Thomas was intriguing as the writer Salka Viertel, bringing just the right attitude as the double crossing devil who betrays her friend Mercedes and convinces Garbo to steal de Acosta's notes in order to write the legendary script "
Queen Christina." Greek actress Mantha Balourdou displayed perfect comic timing as the jealous lover Poppy. Dorian Martin, the token male in this script, played all the parts from studio mogul to messenger boy changing posture and voice with his costumes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show and do recommend it. Mature audiences only.
Garbo's Cuban Lover is playing Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through November 9
Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road,
West Hollywood, CA.90069. (323-314-6332)
All Photos: Odalys Nanin (as Mercedes) and Angela Nicholas (as Greta) in "Garbo's Cuban Lover" at Macha Theatre. Photo credit: Kelly Mullis.