Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter
We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.
It is a dark and stormy night of the soul in Marco Antonio de la Parra’s El Angel de la Culpa (“The Angel of Guilt”). As thunder and lightning crash outside, two figures struggle on a balcony until one falls to his death. A police detective happens by soon after, and for the rest of the one-act, he vacillates: Playing both priest and penitent, he wants to extract a confession from the young man he takes to be the dead man’s rent boy, and there are one or two things he needs to confess to someone himself. Manuel Cabrera-Santos’ detective rambles on the subjects of homosexuality, which he doesn’t approve ofbut spends a lot of time ruminating about (“I’m not a faggot, but I do know damn well why a guy like you strikes their fancy”)his anxiety over his teenage daughter’s blossoming sexuality, and his own fantasies of mass murder and teen seduction. The young suspect (Sebastián Rodríguez) cowers convincingly, alternating between trying to escape as the detective spirals further and further into himself, and merely trying to live through the night. But he never tries to defend himself until late in the action, when he finally reveals his true relationship to the dead manwhich makes all the puta and maricón talk irrelevant. If he’s supposed to be enjoying the detective’s breakdown, Rodríguez’s portrayal doesn’t reflect it. Cabrera-Santos looks like Inspector Clouseau on a Bad Lieutenant day. He sees himself “as a black angel that arrives in your heaven of beautiful and delicate things in order to clean up the refuse of your base instincts”because, apparently, homosexual intercourse always leads to murder. As the detective babbles on, it’s hard to identify his point: Homosexuality is bad, leads to death; teen sex is bad, also leads to death. He even touches on that familiar troublemaker, the virgin/whorea friend of the detective’s daughter is “like a whore and an angel wrapped into one.” It’s a black worldview in which the only flashes of humor are black as well. And if we are meant to feel sympathy for the detective, we can’t once he confesses his sins. We can’t even admire him professionally, because he never learns anything about the nature of the incident on the balcony. The Gala Hispanic Theatre’s production is a heaven of beautiful and delicate things, nonetheless, thanks to Milagros Ponce de León’s understated, upscale set, and the spotlit sculptures and good liquor at the bar elicit a subtext of class hatred on the detective’s part. Director Gabriel Garcì#a keeps the cat-and-mouse tension high, but it’s all in service of a play that consists mostly of a giant red herring.Janet Hopf