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...the autobiographical main character, Federico, a gay writer and embittered Pedro Pan emigrant...

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The Cuba Files
The Gully's complete coverage of Cuba.

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Eduardo Machado, Pedro Pan emigrant and author of "Havana Is Waiting."

Havana Is Waiting: A Review

by Corey Sabourin

NOVEMBER 9, 2001. Pedro Pan was the name of the child-"rescue" operation that spirited some 14,000 Cuban children to the United States shortly after the revolution of 1959. In playwright Eduardo Machado's "Havana Is Waiting," currently playing at Manhattan's Cherry Lane Theatre, it's the drama over child-icon Elián González that offers the autobiographical main character, Federico, a gay writer and embittered Pedro Pan emigrant, hope for reconciliation between a defiled childhood and an abiding adoration for his homeland.

Federico's homosexuality is less important to his emotional return to Cuba than it is to his ostensibly straight friend, Fred (Ed Vassallo), who, camcorder always in hand, travels with Federico to the Havana suburb where he grew up. Fred is on a personal journey, too, it turns out, one of fragile, and puzzling, sexual self-healing. His slow-building catharsis is in counterpoint to Federico's nervy, spit-flying pontificating, which actor Bruce MacVittie pulls off solidly, with a Bette Davis snarl.

The odd-couple pair is well served by the play's third character, their macho Cuban driver, Ernesto (Felix Solis), a by-turns hypocritical Communist and voice of reason, as well as by the onstage, mood-underscoring drumming (Richard Sanchez).

Although the scant story line of "Havana Is Waiting" relies on the first Elián protests to soften the cool distance between Federico the exile, and Ernesto the patriot, both Machado and director Michael John Garcés successfully steer clear of Elián overkill. But Federico's frustrated attempts to get inside his former home, now a school, becomes heavy handed — Cuba continuing to punish him. Even so, the vibrant, heartfelt verbal sparring generally absorbs the play's bouts of preachiness.

The family-reconciliation theme that solidifies late in the play might seem like one theme too many, except that the three men do unite in solidarity. It's clearly what Machado — the author of twenty-five plays and a professor at Columbia University — hopes for the United States and Cuba as well.

Federico's initial anger at the Cuban government for fighting for Elián's return while it had allowed him to leave decades ago gradually passes. By the end of the play, Federico waits no longer, lifting the blockade inside himself.

"Havana Is Waiting," by Eduardo Machado, at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St. NYC, 212-239-6200. Tickets on sale now through November 25.

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