BWW Reviews: World Premiere of MOCHA Gives an Honest Depiction of International Adoption
Any theatergoer knows that new works tend to be hit or miss. New works premiering at a fringe festival tend to be even more unpredictable. Yes, there are plenty of successful, well-respected plays that had their beginnings at a fringe fest, but thousands more premiere and are swiftly forgotten. Mocha, currently enjoying its World Premiere at FronteraFest, won't be forgotten anytime soon. The play, written by Eleanor Burgess and produced by EVN Productions and Last Act Theatre Company, gives an honest and unapologetic look at international adoptions. While every person involved may think they have the child's best interests at heart, political agendas quickly come into play.
After a tsunami hits Indonesia and leaves thousands of children orphaned, the Indonesian government opens the country up to international adoption for the first time. Film star Eliot (Laura Artesi) arrives in Indonesia with her assistant Donna (Karen Alvarado) in hopes of adopting a young girl. While the head of the Indonesian Adoption Authority (Martinique Duchene-Phillips) hopes that Eliot can help the island gain publicity, Eliot's adoption plans attracts the attention of a reporter (Ben McLemore) who questions why a successful, single film star would want to adopt. Meanwhile, American couple Carol and Ted (Marie Fahlgren and Trace Pope) have their sights set on the same little girl that Eliot plans to adopt.
Burgess's intelligent script holds no punches as it explores the merits and failings of the adoption industry. She easily points out the agendas that every person has but still maintains their likeability. While we may initially question the motives of the Angelina Jolie-esque Eliot, a woman who has her assistant shop for children on her iPad while she does her morning yoga, Burgess still gives Eliot a heart, and Laura Artesi is more than able to bring the nuanced character to life. Similarly, the turmoil that Carol and Ted face during the tedious adoption process is realistically portrayed thanks to Burgess's text and the outstanding performances by Fahlgren and Pope. As they endure several rounds of applications and social worker visits, Ted questions what people will think if they adopt a non-Caucasian girl, particularly once she's grown, and Carol's depression during the ordeal brings her to her breaking point. By showing how uncertain the couple is, Burgess makes them all the more human.
The superb performances of the leads are easily matched by the supporting players. Karen Alvarado plays Eliot's assistant Donna with a touch of sassiness and wit that is completely engrossing and entertaining to watch. As the reporter, Ben McLemore is appropriately dry and gruff, especially in his moments with Artesi, but the few moments of tenderness that he exhibits later in the play are still quite believable. Scot Friedman provides the play with a few moments of comedy relief as Carol and Ted's adoption lawyer, Lee. Friedman has mastered the deadpan delivery of politically incorrect lines, such as "Say what you will about them, but women's rights are bad for the adoption industry," or "You can have your own little Barak Obama, or Tiger Woods if you're conservative."
With its incredibly strong text and equally strong performances, Mocha is a poignant drama that doesn't come along too often. Shows designed to make you think are rarely this successful or honest.
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
MOCHA, produced by EVN productions and Last Act Theater Company, plays its final performance at Salvage Vanguard Theater at 2803 Manor Rd on Friday 1/31 at 8:45pm. Tickets are $15. For tickets and information, please visit www.lastacttheater.com