With a big nod to Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, Mark Wilding’s Our Man in Santiago, set in 1973, is a black comedy send-up that features a low-level CIA operative, Daniel Baker (Nick McDow Musleh), flown in to Santiago, Chile, to assist in the take down of that country’s duly elected president, Salvador Allende, a medical doctor and an avowed Marxist.
This cunning show starts with a curtain raiser. On a coal black stage, the tightly lit head of a male actor is revealed downstage left. He is being questioned by a congressional committee into CIA operations. Black out. Lights come up on a hotel suite. Daniel Baker is seen fumbling with a revolver. He is inept, jittery, all thumbs. He is there, across the street from the presidential palace, to make sure that Allende leaves office. How dare he try to nationalize the Coca-cola plant!
A hotel maid enters. She is Maria (Presciliana Esparolini), tall, lithesome, efficient and well-spoken in her minimal English. There is more to her than meets the eye. Husky, bearded Jack Wilson (George Tovar) shows up and starts pouring the cocktails. He is Daniel’s supervisor and a bully. With the three principals established, we are off to the races. High comedy ensues, leavened with pathos, and just the right measure of the creepy to please a primed audience.
Lest I forget, a handsome piece of stage craft (thank you so very much Jeff G. Rack and Amanda Dauter) twice reveals a certain hunching President (Steve Nevil) and his toady, the Secretary of State (Michael Van Duzer), on phone calls anxious to make sure that Allende is gone. How refreshing—we don’t get too many parodies of Nixon and Kissinger these day.
The show is deftly directed by Charlie Mount. The superior creative team also includes lighting designer, Yancey Dunham; costume designer, Mylette Nora; fight director, Joe Nassi; and gun captain, Bruce Dickinson. David Mingrino is the production stage manager, and Chloe Rosenthal assistant directs.
Our Man in Santiago, produced by Benjamin Scuglia and presented by Theatre West, runs through October 24, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West in Los Angeles, CA 90068.