If the name Eliana López doesn’t immediately ring a bell, that’s because she was carefully excluded from the San Francisco political scandal that was ostensibly about her. A Venezuelan actress, López is married to the city's Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who was arrested for domestic violence just a few days after he took office in 2012, leading to dogged but ultimately unsuccessful attempts by Mayor Ed Lee to remove Mirkarimi from office.
The charge was that Mirkarimi had grabbed López’s arm during an argument on New Year’s Eve. A neighbor videotaped López showing a bruise in case there was ever a custody battle over their son, and the neighbor then turned that tape over to police without López’s permission.
Forbidden from contact with her husband by a judge’s stay-away order, López was the last person that the people ostensibly defending her wanted to hear from. She was adamantly opposed to the charges against Mirkarimi.
For more on the real-life scandal, read and listen to audio from an interview with López by KQED's own Rebecca Bowe.
Now López is telling her side of the story to the public -- both in interviews and, perhaps more compellingly, in fictionalized form. Her one-woman show at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, What Is the Scandal? / ¿Cuál es el Escándalo?, gives a streamlined first-person account of what she went through, from the start of their romance to their reunion after months of forced separation.
Just over an hour long, the play is mostly in Spanish with English supertitles, and occasionally vice versa when López speaks as American characters. Her brother, Alfonso López, wrote the script and directs the show.
An assured and lively performer, Eliana López shifts in and out of other characters in the course of her story. She acts out the amusing cultural misunderstandings between herself and her American husband. She sticks on a mustache and glasses to play Mr. Lie, a duplicitous local politician who might seem familiar. She plays her friends and family members back home in Venezuela as well as the insidiously insinuating neighbor, who always seems to be trying to sow discord between Eliana and her husband, and who talks her into making the fateful videotape.
It’s hard to gauge how literally to take the play. It’s a stylized first-person account of López’s experiences with names changed, but what appear to be thinly fictionalized versions of specific people are actually hybrid characters. When some of those characters do downright villainous things, it raises the question of who exactly did what. Ultimately, though, this play isn’t about them. It’s Eliana López’s story, and it’s a funny and heartbreaking one that’s awfully well told.