by Jo Ann Rosen · August 11, 2014
Picture a road trip with your dad and your dog during the chaotic 1970’s. You leave lovely Isla Vista, CA, and end up in Santa Lucia, Honduras. That’s what William Lewis, American writer and painter, did, and he wrote about it in a book called Blue Pariah. Close to the Bone is a quirky, refreshing solo performance by Mario Quesada, which adapts Lewis’ memoir, breathing new life into this winsome tale. Quesada takes on many personas, including a young boy named Jebney, his father, his dog Brown, and a myriad of figures he meets in Honduras, stringing together stories of adventure, friendship, bravado, fantasy, and magical realism. Quesada is a natural born storyteller. He weaves one story into another seamlessly.
Quesada introduces Brown early on through a vagrant trying to make a few bucks. The vagrant promises that the puppy will prove special, snatches his five bucks, and we know immediately that the dog is just another mutt. But he isn’t. In California, Brown roves the boxing circuit, or is he simply scrapping with wild dogs? Quesada makes the anthropomorphic sound possible. There’s a boxing referee, the crowds, and Brown’s rise to boxing champ – just before departing for Honduras! According to Brown, and he does speak through Quesada, humans are the dogs chained to their towers, their needs and their products. Once he hits Honduras, Brown feels the freedom. Yes, he loves this new frontier, where he can roam freely with the wild packs. He sits at the foot of Jebney’s bed at night guarding him from these dogs, from the rising militia, and from animals real and mystical. For Jebney, Honduras is not quite as idyllic. His father wakes him at dawn, there’s no toilet and no running water. Still, Jebney adapts, and makes friends with Tonyo, a deformed boy, who is taunted by other children, but never when he is swimming. Then, Tonyo is whole and his muscles are powerful. His sister, Teresa, hangs out in the woods, and tells her own magical stories that transfix Jebney.
What seemed so fanciful suddenly takes on darker hues as the militia becomes stronger. One day his friends Tonya and Teresa vanish. Apparently, the military had a bone to pick with their father, a poet. Brown, too, finds the environment more threatening. Quesada doesn’t pause. He moves into the dark parts before we know we’re there. As he says, this is how the world works – close to the bone. By 1980 they are back in California. But, not before appalling events color the fantasy.
Using simple props to differentiate his characters, Quesada’s voice drops and rises accordingly, transforming himself into anyone he wants to portray. All the characters are recognizable, believable, and appealing. Quesada’s brisk pace is on the button. This is one trip you won’t want to miss.