Review: On The Other Side of the Sea

by Lynn on February 14, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W. Toronto, Ont. Produced by Aluna Theatre, playing until Feb. 25, 2024.

Written by Jorgelina Cerritos

Directed by Soheil Parsa

Scenographer, Trevor Schwellnus

Costumes by Niloufar Ziaee

Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne

Cast: Beatriz Pizano

Carlos Gonzalez-Vio

A beautifully rendered play of waiting, longing, identity, purpose and hope.

When the lights go down, we hear the sound of the full force of crashing waves on a shore and the sense of the wind as well.  Kudos to sound designer, Thomas Ryder Payne.

A man (Carlos Gonzalez-Vio) and a woman (Beatriz Pizano) are on a dock by the sea. The sound of the waves underscores the scenes.  She wears a black dress over a blouse, and simple shoes. She is sitting at a small desk with two neat stacks of paper. She is marking the papers of one pile with a pencil and putting the marked papers on the other pile.

The man is standing on another part of the dock looking wistfully out to sea. He is unshaven and wears a worn sleeveless shirt and black mid-calf cargo pants. There is a ring of salt around the bottom of each pant leg. He is barefoot.  She is a clerk in some unknown department and he is a fisherman (hence the ring of salt.)

He needs a certificate to prove who he is so he can get on with his life. He does not know his name or his date of birth or where he comes from or his parentage. He does not suffer from amnesia. He just does not know. She is exasperated at such an absurd thing. She is meticulous about her job, ensuring all the information needed for the completion of forms is provided. She has no patience for this man. She keeps looking off to her right, into the distance to call “next” for the next non-existent person in line to be served. There never is anyone there.

Welcome to the absurdist world of Salvadoran playwright, Jorgelina Cerrito’s 2010 award-winning play, On The Other Side of the Sea.

Over the course of the 90-minute production the man, known only as “Fisherman of the Sea,” tries to engage the woman, we learn is named “Dorothea.” She is bitter about her situation. She lives in the city but is relegated to this beach ‘office’ because of her age. The administration wants only younger people in the city and has moved her out here to do drudge-work. She was in love with a man once who went to sea and has not returned. He holds the key to her unborn children. And she hates the sea and never goes swimming in it, so this placement is particularly onerous.

She is determined to get the information she needs for the forms for this fisherman. Initially she dismisses the man because he does not know his name or details of his life, a situation she finds unbelievable.

He is frustrated too but in a milder way. He can see beauty in his boat, the sea, the air, the sky, the sunrise and things that matter in his life. He once found love with a wonderful woman and wanted to marry but did not have the papers that offered his first name, last name, address and age.  He wanted to own a dog with whom he bonded in the pound, but did not have the needed papers of identity/birth certificate.

As rigid as Dorothea is in her determination to properly fill the forms only with factual information, that is as patient Fisherman of the Sea is to wait for her to soften and help him. There are echoes here of Samuel Beckett’s 1953 absurdist play, Waiting for Godot as two characters banter, philosophize, support each other and wait for another character (Godot) who never arrives. So Dorothea waits for customers and Fisherman of the Sea waits for his birth certificate.

Over the course of this beautifully directed, gently paced production by Soheil Parsa, Beatriz Pizano as Dorothea, and Carlos Gonzalez-Vio as Fisherman of the Sea, establish their characters. As Dorothea, Beatriz Pizano sits straight-backed in her wood chair. When she sits in the chair, she snaps her dress firmly under her. It’s a terrific bit of theatricality that so illuminates Dorothea’s character.  Her pencil strokes are sharp, methodical and don’t vary. There is only one way to do this job and she does it with determination.

As Fisherman of the Sea, Carlos Gonzalez-Vio is curious, more relaxed, friendly, inquisitive. He is mindful of the distance between them. That’s why the subtle closing of the distance between them and the relaxed body language of both actors for their characters is so beautiful to witness. The trio of sensitive director and his two gifted actors realizes the beauty of this delicate play. The business that suggests hope, is breathtaking.    

Aluna Theatre presents:

Plays until February 25, 2024.

Running Time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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