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Nicholas Papademetriou, Deborah Galanos, Christian Charisiou, David Soncin. Images: Clare Hawley.

THEATRE: 18 MAY 2015

By GERALDINE WORTHINGTON

The House of Ramon Iglesia, by Jose Rivera | Directed by Anthony Skuse

Mophead Productions | The Old Fitzroy Theatre (www.oldfitztheatre.com), Woolloomooloo, Sydney | Until 6 June

Playwright Jose Rivera was born in Puerto Rico in 1955 and lived there until the age of four, when he and his family migrated to New York and settled on Long Island. The House of Ramon Iglesia is very much his autobiographical work, mostly dealing with the impact of parental culture on three sons, each of whom, in their own way, view and react to their upbringing differently.

The eldest son Javier (Stephen Multari) vehemently rejects his parent’s plans to return to the old country and is exasperated by their continued non-assimilation. As a college graduate seeking to enter politics, he easily becomes frustrated with the cultural baggage that his parents constantly carry, and the conflict this raises within himself, especially when they continually remind him of his early life in Puerto Rico.  Julio (Christian Charisiou) on the other hand, escapes the house by joining the Marines, leaving only Charlie (David Soncin), the youngest brother, to willingly return to Puerto Rico with his parents.

Their father, Ramon (Nicholas Papademetriou) is a labourer, alcoholic and diabetic, whilst their mother Delores (Deborah Galanos), although in relatively good health is obsessively pious and speaks little English, whilst understanding everything!

There are some admirable performances in this character-driven drama — Multari captures Javier’s egotism and frustrations perfectly, as do Charisiou and Soncin who play his less recalcitrant brothers.  Eloise Snape is excellent as Javier’s rough-around-the-edges girlfriend, Caroline, who has a heart of gold, whilst Galanos convinces in a classic matriarchal role and Nicholas Papademetriou is especially good as the husband — old-fashioned, emotional and ineffectual. Accolades go also to Linda Nichols-Grundy’s contribution as a dialect coach whose work authenticates and unifies all of these notable performances.

The play fits perfectly into the theatre space of The Old Fitzroy, where the oppressive Long Island home that incarcerates the family is effectively personified by Georgia Hopkins’ detailed set design, accentuating the importance of coffee and Delores’ religious shrine, but equally conveying the confines of a dysfunctional family home.

This is a compassionate play showcasing some excellent performances, even if the writing is repetitive and dated. But Anthony Skuse’s efficient direction avoids overindulging in sentimentality and instead offers a well-crafted, well focused piece of theatre that is certainly worth a look.

Eloise Snape, Stephen Multari.

David Soncin, Stephen Multari.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you enjoy theatre and love atmosphere-filed, traditional inner-city pubs, give the Old Fitz in Woolloomooloo a go. It's an easy walk from King's Cross Station yet a world removed from the sleaze associated with that suburb. Or there's usually easy — and free — evening parking in nearby McElhone Street.

The beers are great and I'm confident that you enjoy the experience (www.oldfitztheatre.com).

Christian Charisiou, Stephen Multari, David Soncin.