Remember the Lina WertmĀller film Swept Away? Stranded on a desert island, a wealthy woman and a blue-collar man wage sexual and class warfare, their contest of wills a thinly disguised metaphor for the power struggles inherent in society. Sounds academic, but the raunchy, caricatured, and politically incorrect social commentary worked because of WertmĀller's wickedly ironic sense of humor. In other words, for all her politics, she never took herself too seriously.

Paper Flowers adopts a similar premise. Eva (Eileen Engel) has a cozy Miami Beach apartment (the location of the original play was changed from Chile for this production) and a steady job, but she is lonely and in search of love. The Hake (Juan Sanchez, in an overwrought performance) lives on the street without the benefits of a job, a roof over his head, regular meals, clean clothes, or running water with which to wash. Eva craves love because capitalism affords her things but not human connection. The Hake, deprived of those same things owing to capitalism's inequities, is no longer capable of love. When they collide A he carries her groceries home, she invites him in, he stays A they descend into a twisted relationship that ends in the destruction of Eva's abode, her old wedding gown (symbol of an antiquated capitalist institution, no?), and her hold on reality. She succumbs to the Hake's craziness, but it's not his responsibility. Social forces made him this way.

How do I know this bizarro partnership is a stand-in for our social structure? Not due to anything conveyed on-stage, I assure you, but rather from information in the program notes. Frankly, a simpler remedy than the overhaul of our decadent economic structure is needed for this pair's troubles. For instance, a steady diet of psychoactive medication will set the Hake right, while a handful of girlfriends to gossip about sex and play canasta with will cure Eva's ills. (As Eva, Eileen Engel, an unaffected, very relaxed actress, offers some bright moments early on, but she ultimately spirals downward with the rest of the production.)

I know. I'm being hopelessly flip about serious subjects such as homelessness, codependency, loneliness, and abuse. But like the Hake, I am not responsible. The interminably long, literal, and unfocused production, without a shred of dark humor or sinister intensity A either of which would have relieved the relentless monotony A made me this way.

Stage Notes
Further news on the Miami premiere of Angels in America: Opening night of Millennium Approaches, part one of Angels, will feature a gala black-tie-optional benefit for Friends of Gusman Center, to help support programs at the historic theater. The $250 ticket price for the Tuesday, April 18, event includes a pretheater reception, a seat for the production, gala patron seating, an aftertheater party, and valet parking. Call 374-2444 to reserve your place. Perestroika, part two of the seven-hour epic, opens on Thursday, April 20, with a benefit for DIFFA and HOPE, two Miami-based AIDS-service agencies. Tickets for the Perestroika premiere cost $250, $150, and $100. Prices reflect seating locations, and all tickets include pre- and postshow receptions at the theater. Call 573-6180 for more information.

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