WASHINGTON D.C.:Lisa Loomer’s 2003 play Living Out follows two intertwining, if not quite parallel, narrative tracks: that of Nancy, a high-achieving Anglo entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles who struggles to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and that of Ana, the undocumented Salvadoran nanny who looks after Nancy’s young child, and whose domestic/professional boundaries prove even thornier to negotiate. (The title refers to Ana’s fundamental desire to remain a commuting domestic rather than live-in “help.”)
Gala Hispanic Theatre’s new revival of Living Out will feature its own kind of double focus. It will be performed in English but with supertitles in Spanish. It’s an aesthetic choice that makes the work more widely accessible, though it reverses Gala’s more typical practice of performing plays in Spanish with English supertitles.
“The majority of our audience is bilingual,” says Abel Lopez, who directs Loomer’s play, running through May 18. “Our surveys indicate that 72 percent of them want to hear work in Spanish, but they want to read information, like marketing materials about the plays, in English. It’s a cultural thing,” he surmises about this curious dichotomy.
If language can be a common link among audience members with heritage from South America, Central America and the Caribbean, class and gender are common dividing lines. “The play speaks to women, and not just Latinos, about the challenges to women of working and raising a family, regardless of immigration or class status,” Lopez says.
Supertitles aside, that’s unfortunately a dilemma that needs no translation.