(HOLLYWOOD PRESS CORPS) — Los Angeles, California — Saturday, February 11th, 2023 — The Hollywood Press Corps was at the opening night and red carpet for Garbo’s Cuban Lover on the east side of Los Angeles in the Boyle Heights Arts District. Theatre goers and media were eager to see the play written, produced and starring the amazing Odalys Nanin.
Mercedes was a beautiful Cuban woman and she loved beautiful starlets of the day. Just to name a few, Pola Negri, a famous Russian ballerina, the dancer Isadora Duncan, Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead and many, many others. In a letter from Isadora Duncan to Mercedes, Isadora wrote,”Mercedes, lead me with your little strong hands and I will follow you to the top of a mountain.”
Nanin really does a master class in theatre acting. She expertly explores the huge appetite Mercedes de Acosta had for not only physical relationships, but amazing correspondence between Mercedes and her lovers.
Mercedes de Acosta had a long on again, off again relationship with Greta Garbo and Marelen Dietrich. Nanin imagines the passionate lesbian love Mercedes had. Mercedes was a rising screen writing star in Hollywood super producer Irving Thalberg’s world. Unfortunately, Thalberg died unexpectedly from pneumonia in 1941. After that Mercedes stopped writing for the pictures in Hollywood and moved to New York City to work in publishing.
Mercedes was a playwright, a poet and a screenwriter for MGM. She was known for wearing mens suits and Talulah Bankhead called her, “Countess Dracula”. Nanin plays her with an Edward G Robinson energy. The play is written well and moves really well. The play has clever scenes that use blocking effectively. There is rowing scene between Mercedes and Garbo that is clever.
The play covers Mercedes life until she gets passes. Nanin imagines the final scene between Mercedes and Greta Garbo. It ends with Garbo saying, “I just want to be left alone.” That got a big laugh from the Garbo fans.
Lydie Denier as Greta Garbo is a fine performance. How does one get the deep voice and one word responses of Greta Garbo right? Lydie gets Greta’s humor and speaking rhythm. Lydie also looks gorgeous as a Scandinavian in the costumes she wore. She has the Garbo vibe and she has a pro Theatre Actors energy. She carefully but purposefully puts out a complicated Garbo who keeps coming back to this one woman (Mercedes).
Kesia Elwin as Isadora Duncan portrays the American dancer so well with dancing and fun energy. She shows the passion between Duncan and Mercedes. Isadora Duncan is such a great figure in American history. Kesia brings out the playful soul of Isadora.
Kate Patel as Marlene Dietrich is wondeful. A tall beautiful blonde woman, Kate, seemed to be exploring lesbian love on the stage and all that comes with it. I could see her assessing her own relationships (whatever those are) to get to a passionate moment between the lovers. The Dietrich scene at the end had Kate bringing out maximum Dietrich. The German accent, the story of Dietrich hooking up with Garbo. It is old news now, but that was a big Hollywood secret that only came out in the 1980s. I would love to see Kate Patel in a Sam Shepard play like Fool for Love.
Skip Pipo as Irving Thalberg is great. Skip has a familiar, Hollywood’s Golden Age sort of look. Thalberg was a mystery and died so young. It’s hard to get a feeling for what Thalberg was really like.
Skip portrays Thalberg as a busy producer who works with the all top actors. Skip also keeps the action going by playing other characters. I did a double take as I thought Skip was John Mahoney from Fraiser.
Bruna Bertossi as Poppy Kirk gets some of the biggest laughs when she’s flirting with Mercedes. Bruna brings fun and sexy to the play. She is a beautiful International fashion model and has comedy acting chops too. Myeva Surjik plays Salka Viertel. This role is important to the plot as Mercedes life pivots around Salka’s actions. Myeva does a good job playing Mercedes’ nemesis.
I saw Phil Sokolow at the red carpet and we both agreed that Garbo’s Cuban Lover is a fun journey and a good play. I think it’d make a great movie with a young Cuban actress and Phill suggested Ana De Armas which is a great idea.
The play runs at Casa 0101 until February 25th. Follow this link for tickets.