As one of San Francisco’s most prominent playwrights, Octavio Solis has a long relationship with Magic Theatre. The Magic was one of the first places to produce Solis’ plays in the Bay Area after he moved here in 1989. Although his work has gone on to be much produced elsewhere, including recent productions at the California Shakespeare Theater and Marin Theatre Company, it’s been 16 years since his last play at the Magic, although he directed Tarell Alvin McCraney’s The Brothers Size there two years ago.
Now he’s back with the world premiere of Se Llama Cristina, directed by Magic Theatre’s producing artistic director, Loretta Greco. Originally commissioned by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the play makes its debut as part of a National New Play Network rolling world premiere that will go on to productions at Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas, TX, and The Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, CA. It’s a good thing Cristina is going on to further development in subsequent productions, because while it has moments of brilliance, other parts are still pretty shaky.
In fact, the play’s all about shakiness. A man and a woman wake up in a tiny, dingy apartment (an appropriately oppressive set by Andrew Boyce), not knowing who they are, where they are, or even whether if they even know each other. The fact that they’re passed out in chairs around a kitchen table with syringes next to them (or in their arms) provides a pretty good clue, but the man insists he never uses that stuff.
For people who can’t remember anything about themselves, they certainly know a lot of random stuff about the world and their attitudes. The woman thinks her name might be Vespa, but no, that’s a scooter, and the man finds a chicken wing in an otherwise empty baby crib and knows by a whiff that it’s neither KFC nor Popeyes. Both are Mexican Americans who “don’t date Mexicans” and claim to know nothing but curses in Spanish, though they speak it more and more as the play goes on.