August 28th, 2009 5:33 pm | by BEN WATERHOUSE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Danse Macabre: The Cuban Missile Tango reviewed

Cuban Missile Tango

Jerry Mouawad, one of the two talents behind Portland's 30-year-old Imago Theatre, has is accustomed to creating shows that rely more on movement than on speech. But lately, starting with APIS in February and continuing with his new show, The Cuban Missile Tango, running through this Sunday, Mouawad has moved from mime-heavy drama to something more akin to dance theater.

The Cuban Missile Tango is about an early 1960s costume party that happens to take the form of the Cuban missile crisis. The piece begins with the cast seated around a table, laughing and carousing. Then projected headlines start to thunder across the set with the sound of a thousand teletype machines, and it becomes apparent that each of the diners represents a historical figure. Castro is here, of course, and Kennedy and Khrushchev and a dozen others. The Cuban revolution is announced, Castro climbs on the table and what follows is a melange of crude humor, violence and beauty.

National alignment is represented with a key party; John and Robert Kennedy gang-bang Inga-Binga. A quartet of Soviets scream wordless threats at a part of innocent bystanders. A tango culminates in Russian Roulette. Letters fly from hand to hand in a flurry of inconvenient correspondence.

I'm not sure I understand Mouawad's goal in creating this show—I suspect he thought it would be fun, and what more justification does one need?—and occasionally found myself at a loss trying to follow the action onstage. But so what? Nobody understood what was going on during the crisis, either. The Cuban Missile Tango is 60 minutes long. It's an enjoyable, if not Earth-shattering, hour. And we could all stand to be reminded of how close the world came to nuclear holocaust in 1962. Also—this show is darn cheap!

Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave. 231-3959 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday, Aug. 28-29, 2 pm Sunday, Aug. 30. $10.
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