Marissa Chibas in Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary
(© Steven A Gunther)
Marissa Chibas in Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary
(© Steven A Gunther)
In 1993, Marissa Chibas went back to a place she'd never been. Although she was born in the United States, her first trip to Cuba was indeed a homecoming. She visited with relatives she'd never met and unearthed some of the murky history surrounding her family. Her compelling solo performance, Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary directed by Mira Kingsley, is her attempt to make sense of some of what she learned there, as well as her experiences growing up in exile.

The show focuses on the stories of Chibas' father, Raul, her mother, Dalia, and her uncle, Eddy. The writer/performer inhabits the voices of all three of these figures, as well as a few miscellaneous characters, including her childhood self. She makes no attempt to disappear into these roles; one is always aware of Chibas as performer, even when she is speaking in a first-person direct address to the audience as Raul, Dalia, or Eddy.

Raul fought alongside Castro during the revolution, co-authoring the movement's manifesto. Afterwards, however, he became disillusioned with the direction the country was headed. He expressed his discontentment to Castro, then fled the country in peril of his life. Speaking as Raul, Chibas laments to the audience, "I am erased from Cuban history. I am conspicuously left out of the list of comandantes of the rebel army at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana."

An even more tragic figure is Eddy. A charismatic speaker and the frontrunner for the Cuban presidency in 1951, he committed suicide during a live radio broadcast. The act left a political vacuum, as well as a void within the Chibas family. The senseless death haunted Raul for the remainder of his days.

As Chibas delivers Eddy's final speech (in translation), the rousing call for the Cuban people to wake up and fight corruption seems to directly contradict his own action, which ended not only his life but the chance for his party to take charge of the government.

While portions of the performance are suffused with political rhetoric and history, Chibas also includes the more human side to her family's existence. One of the most engaging sections chronicles a time during Chibas' youth as her family hosts a party for other Cuban exiles. They laugh, talk, and -- most importantly --dance. Chibas is captivating as she takes on the various movement styles of the party guests.

As a performer, Chibas has remarkable muscular control that draws your attention to every movement of her body. One of the recurring metaphors within the piece is that of drowning, and Chibas often seems as if she is indeed moving through water. As she considers her family members' lives, she takes the audience on a journey of discovery that brings a fresh perspective to the tumultuous political history of Cuba.