We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Playwright Alberto Pedro Torriente uses the impending death of an animal as a metaphor in his tale of modern-day Cuba. The manteca (lard) in the title of Teatro de la Luna’s frenetic one-act is a family project of brothers Pucho and Celestino and their sister, Dulce: a pig they’ve been secretly raising in their Havana apartment. It’s New Year’s Eve 2000, and the sibs have agreed that this is the day they’ll slaughter their treasure and harvest its much-needed protein. The butchering will also release subversive novelist Pucho, Russian-educated engineer Celestino, and middle-aged, distracted Dulce from their pressure cooker of secrets and stench. Although the death of the pig may mean the breakup of what remains of their family, they’re beginning to crack under the pressure of confinement. Actor/director Harold Ruíz’s Celestino is an overwound spring, angrily denouncing all of their problems as a lack of cojones. Pucho (Peter Pereyra) is a dreamer and halfassed philosopher, obliviously working on his unpublishable novel as he putters around in his pajamas. Leslie Yáñez embodies Dulce’s fear of change heartbreakingly, carefully meting out the family’s rice ration even as she reminisces about the good old days of the missile crisis. Mario Marcel’s elaborate two-level set is crowded with shabby necessities of the family’s existence—laundry hung on lines, numerous iron tubs, a broken bicycle, and a battered steamer trunk, which represents both Celestino’s brief escape to Russia and the family he lost there. Ruíz keeps the cast moving: jumping on furniture, chasing each other to force confrontations, and then retreating to their private spaces as befits a family—and a country—going stir-crazy. Manteca is a claustrophobic experience in which the struggles of one family symbolize the isolation of their nation: They must kill their beloved pet to have what has become unknown in their country—not Utopia, but simply “the possibility of something different.”—Janet Hopf