top of page

'On the Other Side of the Sea' by Jorgelina Cerritos and translated by Dr. Margaret Stanton and Anna Donko. The Canadian premiere

Produced by Aluna Theatre and now onstage at The Theatre Centre

Credit: Jeremy Mimnaugh Pictured: Carlos Gonzalez-Vio and Beatriz Pizano

Joe Szekeres

‘Artfully directed by Soheil Parsa. Beatriz Pizano and Carlos Gonzales-Vio deliver poignant performances.”

‘On the Other Side of the Sea’ is initially a story about two people connecting in a surreal environment.
The setting is a dock on an abandoned beach. Sound Designer Thomas Ryder Payne again works his clever magic in establishing a believable one. There are the sounds of water ebbing and flowing to and from the shoreline. There is a dock with a desk and chair. Neatly piled paperwork can be seen on the desk.

Lone civil servant Dorotea (Beatriz Pizano) works at her desk on the dock in front of the water. She appears busy completing paperwork. Periodically, she calls out: “Next” for the person in line to approach. No one does.

Fisherman (Carloz Gonzalez-Vio) requires documentation from Dorotea to prove he exists. There is an issue at hand first. Before Fisherman gets the documentation to prove he exists, he needs documentation to say who he is to get the documentation he needs.

Sounds absurd.

That’s precisely what initially piqued my attention to the Canadian premiere of ‘On the Other Side of the Sea.’ Playwright Jorgelina Cerritos incorporates elements of ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ into the script. For example, Costume Designer Niloufar Ziaee has Dorotea wear a comfortable-looking dress as she would in an office setting. However, her office is on the beach. The fact that Dorotea waits for the next person in line, and no one approaches, shows absurdity. Where is everyone? Ziaee has Fisherman dressed in appropriate tattered shorts and a white sleeveless shirt to indicate he works outside; however, he stands in line waiting patiently to speak to Dorotea about getting his paperwork. Dorotea is too busy with her other paperwork and doesn’t want to complete what Fisherman needs.

Scenographer Trevor Schwellnus draws attention away deftly from the ordinarily simple view of a dock on a beach to the auditorium’s back wall. In the darkness, there appear to be what might look like crests of waves and a sun in the sky. For some reason, though, there’s something different every time I look at this drawing during the pre-show and the performance. It’s the backlighting. The image never draws focus away from the stage action, but there’s a defined uniqueness each time I see it.

There’s more to appreciating this prestigious 2010 Casa de las Américas Prize script for drama.

I profiled Director Soheil Parsa last week and asked what drew him to the story. He spoke about the lyrical beauty of the words and the subtext underneath what the characters say. Under Parsa’s artful direction, Beatriz Pizano and Carlos Gonzalez-Vio capture the lyrical sound of the words courtesy of translators Dr. Margaret Stanto and Anna Donko.

At times, Pizano’s Dorotea is gruff, business-like, and professional. She’s there to do her job, and that’s it. She’s not there to make friends. Gonzalez-Vio’s Fisherman is often witty and whimsical in his desire to connect with Dorotea. Although he gets frustrated that Dorotea does not listen to him at first, Fisherman is tenacious. He doesn’t give up on wanting to connect with the lonely civil servant, even if only for a few minutes.

Pizano and Gonzalez-Vio instinctively know when to pause and when to savour either the words or their meanings in this absurd understanding of relationship building. They listen attentively and actively to each other. Each has a gorgeous spotlit monologue about his and her life and the courage they have found in their circumstances.

Dorotea’s responses are at first apprehensive of Fisherman. He appears to be in control. Ultimately, they finally hear and listen to each other with compassion and care. And it’s quite lovely to watch these two fine actors doing so.

Parsa finds the subtext of any play interesting.

I find the subtext behind ‘On the Other Side of the Sea’ intriguing.

For one, the story makes subtle comments about immigration to a new world, and the dialogue between Dorotea and the Fisherman is often funny in this discussion. And that’s important.

But there’s more, at least for me.

Some may consider the existential angst of cultural identity or human identity within the script. And that too is fine.

I’m going one step further, taking a risk, and speaking about the Christian spiritual side of ‘On the Other Side of the Sea.’

In his quest to get Dorotea to listen to him, Fisherman becomes that ‘fisher of people’ to go out into the world and get others to listen. At first, Dorotea represents those too caught up in their day-to-day lives. She doesn’t have time for Fisherman and even becomes annoyed that he won’t leave her alone. But like the tenacious Christ who will not give up on his beloved people, Fisherman is just as tenacious with Dorotea. He doesn’t give up on her. He wants her to listen to him and to understand the spiritual identity of ‘Who do you say I am?’

There’s a beautiful tableau near the end of the play where Dorotea and the Fisherman peacefully stare out over the water. A veritable sense of contentment and calm hovers over them. The serene looks on their faces finely sums up this Christian understanding of identity. Whether or not it was intended to time the scheduling of the play as the Christian season of Lent begins doesn’t matter.

Good theatre gets its audiences to think, ponder, and consider other perspectives.

‘On the Other Side of the Sea’ is good theatre.

Running time: approximately 80 minutes with no interval.

‘On the Other Side of the Sea’ runs until February 25 at The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. West. For tickets, call (416) 538-0988 or visit

‘On The Other Side of the Sea’ by Jorgelina Cerritos and translated by Dr. Margaret Stanton and Anna Donko
A Canadian Premiere production from Aluna Theatre

Directed by Soheil Parsa
Scenography by Trevor Schwellnus
Sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne
Costume design by Niloufar Ziaee

Performers: Beatriz Pizano and Carlos Gonzalez-Vio

Abstract Building
Black on Transparent_edited.png
bottom of page