Review: 39 Defaults
Authenticity, in language and delivery, is not always easy to convey. And thus having Spanish actor Pep Muñoz play Ricard, a fictitious character inspired by a Catalan activist and bank robber Enric Duran, gave “39 Defaults” a necessary sense of realism. Playwright Mar Gómez Glez tells the story of a Spanish activist who arrives in NYC to give a talk on financial/social disobedience and the civil exchange required to inspire thought, if not action, against big corporations. At the talk he meets Liz (Kelly Haran), who is inspired by Ricard’s message and attracted to him. Under false pretense, she persuades him to come to her apartment where they discuss his mission and his escape from Spain, where he defaulted on 39 loans that he obtained with fake documentation.
Ricard is straightforward, passionate and apprehensive, which contrasts well with Liz’s secretive, nervous, and scattered character. Liz is trying to calm herself with alcohol, and get Ricard drunk at the same time, while being insistent that he stays the night in the spare room. There is tension, distrust, and agitation between these strangers, and yet Ricard doesn’t leave Liz’s apartment. The two dive into political ideas, the recently erupted ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, and their own plans to fight the system.
The piece presented some interesting social and personal dilemmas, but felt somewhat short and underdeveloped: a final reconciling scene could be added. Still, there was a lot packed into this piece, and director Julián Mesri had several interesting ideas to reveal the plot and the characters’ motivation. He was particularly successful in creating physical discomfort between the two, and his choice to have the actors weave around the audience as though they were part of set worked well. Mesri also effectively and entertainingly utilized the ‘lost in translation’ dialogue between the characters by highlighting the Spanish sprinkled all the way through the play. And the set design (by Feli Lamenca), consisting of orange plastic construction netting draped from ceiling to floor, a remnant of the global anti-capitalist movements of recent years, complemented the themes of the piece and helped to create tension, with actors hiding behind the drapes and using them as physical obstacles to overcome.
“39 Defaults” is a thought-provoking play and has an interesting twist at the end; it makes you question how dedicated you are and what actions you could take for the social and political ideas that you believe in.