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Theater review: 'Fernando Richardson's Treacherous Brain' at Open Fist Theatre

May 19, 2011 |  5:30 pm

RobertoMontesinosKarlaZamudio2The heart proves more resonant than the head in "Fernando Richardson's Treacherous Brain" at Open Fist Theatre. Monica Trasandes' intriguing albeit uneven dramedy scores its strongest points via the emotional tangle that its title character unlocks.

Uruguayan-born contractor Fernando (the appealing Roberto Montesinos) calmly awaits cranial surgery for a tumor. Kate (Natalie Sutherland), his American wife, and Patrick (Mark Slater), his best friend, are similarly casual, sneaking in burgers and booze the night before his procedure, though Fernando's archly no-nonsense nurse (Lyn Michele Ross) demurs.

Their joviality masks deeper concerns that emerge post-surgery, when memory-challenged Fernando meanders into a subliminal minefield. Mercedes (a vivid Paula Fins), his mother, wryly dismisses him thinking that she's Maria Callas; Kate is patiently pragmatic about Fernando's inability to recollect her.  That is, until he obsesses over rescuing enigmatic Elisa (Karla Zamudio, Almodóvar-ready), who might be hallucinatory — or Fernando's great love.

Director Andre Barron guides this Playwrights 6 and Open Fist co-production with noteworthy resource, despite wavering pace. The players are able, though Montesinos' affable intensity seems to occupy a different property than his colleagues.

That is understandable, given the premise, yet it exposes vacillating tone. Trasandes demonstrates skill with exposition and dialogue, layering in the details.  However, her narrative juggles top-drawer Oxygen teleplay with poetically jagged magic realism.  The ending, wherein cosmic couplings occur after one final rug-pull, is markedly more artful and cohesive than what preceded it. There's worth afoot, but "Fernando" might benefit from second-look surgery.

— David C. Nichols

"Fernando Richardson's Treacherous Brain," Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays. Ends June 9. $25. (323) 882-6912 or Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Photo: Roberto Montesinos, left, and Karla Zamudio. Credit: Monica Trasandes.