A chatty commentary on an Extreme Makeoverobsessed society, Un Busto al Cuerpo (A Bust for Every Body) grasps at the moral and philosophical implications of body modification, but barely cops a feel. Cristina (Mónica Steuer), a radio talk-show host, considers getting breast implants, the better to stand out in a TV pilot. Her bloviating best friend, Cristina (Tatiana Vecino), a Foucault-quoting lecturer, publicly mocks her vanity and conformity to patriarchal stereotypes. The former retaliates by interviewing the latter's rebellious daughter Cristina (Belange Rodríguez), who has tits and tats to spare, about her multiple body piercings.
The namesake characters (whose offstage love interests are all named José María) and, in Repertorio Español's production, their geographically untraceable (Spanish) accents point to a universal everywoman. But when tension comes to a boil, the two elder Cristinaswho could at times pass as sober, Hispanic versions of Ab Fab's Edina and Patsystart trading insults: "Barbie!" "Medea!" "Circe!" "Bernarda Alba!" Basta. That Bust boasts two catfights too many says less about the Spanish playwright Ernesto Caballero's gift for slapstick than it does about his gender. For all the professor's feminist theorizing, only a guy could have written this play.
The eager cast compensates with aptly outsize performances. Steuer, in particular, milks laughs out of every line with impeccably timed double takes and Benny-esque pauses. But a recent matinee saw a bit of audience participation as people blurted out her predictable punchlines before she had a chance to deliver them. Director Alejandro Samek keeps a brisk pace, punctuating brief scenes with blackouts and bouncy sound effects. (One wonders how the simultaneous English translation, available via headphones, can keep up with the fast-flying puns.) Yet even at an intermission-less 70 minutes, this Bust feels, well, padded. Satire works best when scalpel-sharp; this one is only skin-deep.
Un Busto al Cuerpo (A Bust for Every Body)
By Ernesto Caballero
Gramercy Arts Theatre
138 East 27th Street
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