The Tropic of X

Poetic, Latin Hip-Hop-infused Drama. 1W, 3M and 1 M or F (all 20s). Open Space.

In the market of video arcades, old and new drugs, swift-changing political regimes, cheap sex for the tourist trade, and ex-bullrings turned into discos and hotels, two lovers named Mori and Maura try to make their way against the ceaseless watch of a dirty sea. A play about migration, exploitation, intersexuality and globalization.

  • Premiere (in German translation by Stefanie Fiedler & Molly Shalken) at artheatre-Cologne, Germany (2007) dir Marcy Arlin
  • co-production between artheatre, lowskinproductions, Koln and Immigrants Theatre Project, New York City. Music & sound design by kai Niggemann. Producers Andreas Robertz and Bernd Rehse.

The Tropic of X was principally developed with the support of TCG/Pew National Theatre Artist Residency program, with additional support from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. It was developed at INTAR/NY, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre’s Exposure Festival/NY, the Latino Play Reading Series at [Inside] the Ford, CA, Teatro Vista-Chicago, Martin E. Segal Center at CUNY and the theatre departments at the University of Iowa, Arizona State University-Tempe, and Wake Forest University. The play was first runner-up in the Pen is a Mighty Sword Competition sponsored by Virtual Theatre Project.

“With The Tropic of X postcolonial theory arrives on the theatre stage of Artheatre of the Dom City. Caridad Svich’s  The Tropic of X redeems Gayatri Spivak’s claim that the colonized formulate in their own voice a counterpart to the master narrative… The dialogues of Mori and Maura are interspersed with the significant markers of capitalist production: brand names and fantasies of the riches of Northern Italy. And the couple sees themselves as street fighters, as characters in a computer game, whose ability to generate new adversity is undaunted. This works especially well when “the Other” is embodied on the stage by one performer, who, depending on the scene, appears as tourist, suitor or torturer — and so the colonizer instead of the colonized remains indeterminate. That the play in spite of its theoretical base never functions as a seminar is a tribure to the author’s game of double-edged meaning and manipulation of cliches.”

~Christian Werchchulte in Dies Tageszeitung (2007). English translation by Eric Abbott.

“Even in the loveliest Caribbean idyllic vacation spot, the history/story is split. When you’re one of the losers in society, the fight for survival is told in buzzwords like violence, poverty, drugs, and prostitution. In the drama The Tropic of X, from Cuban-Argentine author Caridad Svich, the couple Maura and Mori struggle with these problems. As young adults they live together like street children with the transsexual Kiki on the beach of a random place somewhere in Latin America. The American director Marcy Arlin from the Immigrants Theatre Project in New York directed the premier at the Artheater’s space in cooperation with Lowskin Productions in Cologne. (See also June 2007 StadtRevue.)

On the stage in front of a south sea beach panorama stand two color-smeared car seats. Little pieces of paper are littered everywhere. At the edge of the stage in a bamboo shack sitting at the mixer console is a radio DJ wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Maura (Heidrun Reinhardt) and Mori (Stephen Appleton) are disillusioned. Their existence? A deadline. Sometimes they resort to weilding; sometimes they hire themselves out as hustlers. The two invest this loot in cyber-games. In the virtual world they surf like rich “Euro-tourists” on Jet-Skis and feel as immortal as street-fighters in a shootout.

Yet their relationship also provides a sense of security. During the moments in which the couple lolls on the car seats, the couple’s dreams and (violent) fantasies are allowed free reign, and they become lovers. Between the two emerges something of their own, something that becomes even stronger in contrast to everything outside. Kiki’s provocations prompt Maura to defend her love-relationship even to a bloody end. Still the couple has no chance against the ongoing process of a violent dictatorship, imposed from outside. Mori is kidnapped and brought to a place full of violence from which Maura can indeed liberate, but not rescue, him.

At the center of The Tropic of X lies a divided history/story with a double meaning. From the point of view of those that live on the edge of society the Caribbean scenario sometimes becomes so alien and disturbing that one feels the cultural dispossession of this colonized society in an almost literally physical sense. The expressive, direct interaction of the actors creates this premise. Narrator-DJ Hilton (Ben Steinhoff) provides an additional bizarre touch, imparting an atmosphere of Latino rhythms from Bossa Nova to Hip-Hop as well as loose introductory and ongoing scene-commentary.

The evening creates a nightmarish feeling – if one is accustomed to experiencing the story/ies-history/ies from the perspective of the “superiors.”

Ulrike Westhoff in StadtRevue (June 2007), translated by Erik Abbott

Reviews: (Baltimore)

City Paper (Baltimore)

Photos and Video:

Photos: Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography

The Tropic of X at Single Carrot Theatre from Single Carrot on Vimeo.