"Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner"
Hartford Stage, Hartford
Whimsy. Charm. Magical realism. All such elements are present in Luis Alfaro’s new piece at the Hartford Stage. But such elements do not necessarily translate into a play. In this case, we are lost in space, as we try to figure out his message and his conclusions.
Alfaro does have hold of several intriguing ideas in “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner”-- namely how we perceive our body images, how we deal with self-control, how we succumb to obsessions. The material for a play is here, but it is a play waiting to be whipped into shape.
Minerva and Alice are sisters devoted to each other, but equally devoted to food and sex. Minerva cannot resist food, nor can Alice resist sex. Though each has a loving mate, the answer does not lie there. In each case, obsessions have a stronger hold than true love. Why these two sisters are products of a dysfunctional family is never clarified. Nevertheless Alfaro gets off funny lines and delicious social commentary (in a voice uniquely his own), as the sisters grapple with life. But where is the resolution? Alice seems to reconcile to her mate, but Minerva (like the audience) is left up in the air.
Gradually, Minerva (known as “skinny Minny”) blows up like a balloon and floats off into space, like a dramatic version of the expanding universe. This makes for a truly delightful second act, at least visually, under Lisa Peterson’s direction. Elisa Bocanegra is most appealing as the baffled Minerva—warm and funny and pensive, while hopelessly trapped in her outsized body. Bocanegra makes one feel that Minerva is somebody you might meet at any time in life, if you’re lucky. Felix Solis, plays her down-to-earth husband, an ordinary Joe, but every bit her match. And James Martinez and Yetta Gottesman, rounding out the story as the other couple, are only a shade less satisfying, less believable.
Other elements to praise, besides Peterson’s direction, are Rachel Hauck’s scene design, created, as it were, out of thin air, Christopher Akerlind’s lighting, Paul James Prendergast’s sound and music, and Christopher Acebo’s witty costumes.
In sum, “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner” is a puzzling—yet at moments intriguing—experience. But not yet a play.
-- Irene Backalenick
Mar. 12, 2007