This weekend marks the last chance to see Eliana Lopez’s one-woman re-enactment of the political scandal that almost ended her husband’s career. Political wonks and gossip mongers alike will find plenty of material to think about, including the possible motives and actions of just about everyone involved.
The media drama began shortly after former city supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s swearing-in as sheriff on January 8, 2012. Less than a week later he was arrested on charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment, and dissuading a witness. A criminal trial ended in a plea bargain in March 2012, with Mirkarimi facing a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge and six months’ separation from Lopez and their three-year-old son.
The drama only heightened when Mayor Ed Lee demanded Mirkarimi’s resignation. The sheriff refused to comply and the mayor then moved to oust him on grounds of official misconduct. The Board of Supervisors ultimately fell two votes short of removing Mirkarimi from office in December 2012, and he is running for re-election this November.
The details are hardly the stuff of comedy, but if you see the play, Lopez is almost guaranteed to make you laugh – thanks mostly to the exaggerated caricatures she pulls off with considerable acting skill (she was a film and TV star in her native Venezuela).
Her mother, grandfather, neighbor, and especially her husband are captured and reflected in a manner that, without being unkind, injects a respectable dose of humor into a story that is essentially a telenovela: She – new to the city, new to a marriage, and isolated by language and culture; he – ambitious, busy in his career, and unavailable.
Mirkarimi and Lopez (really Lopez and Lopez) fight when she tells him about her plans to travel to Venezuela with the couple’s then three-year-old son. The way Lopez remembers her arm being grabbed is telling: sudden and anti-climactic. The arm-grab is minimized to a non-event, a small marital error that was later blown out of proportion. Others, however, saw it as domestic abuse.
Most effectively, Lopez takes on the roles of people with whom her relationships were less intimate. At one point, she impersonates a member of the media, saying that reporters and bloggers wanted to talk about her, not with her. Three years later, the tables are turned: Speaking for all the other players in her controversy, Lopez tells her tale in a controlled environment where she is in her element and nobody can interrupt.
The prime example is the Mayor Ed Lee character, a squinty-eyed, heavily-accented “Mr. Lie” who walks around pocketing money while promising to rid the city of crime. (The first joke of the evening is a disclaimer warning that the characters are fictional and any similarity to real persons is coincidental.) Here, Lopez is openly accusatory: Mr. Lie extorts a jailed Mirkarimi, and tells him to confess and resign, so that the public might forget Mr. Lie’s fiscal transgressions and focus on Mirkarimi’s scandal instead. The tired, racist stereotype got some laughs from the Victoria Theater audience, but falls flat in a broader context and was a poor choice by Lopez.
While it’s unlikely the piece will change anyone’s mind, it does offer a perspective Lopez was unable to convey as the city’s drama ran its course. And, in acting out the drama she lived through, Lopez also claims and controls her story – something that did not happen when she told Ivory Madison, the friend and neighbor who recorded a video of Lopez after the fight with her husband in case it came to a custody battle. Lopez says she was promised confidentiality, but her neighbor went to the police, and thus started the scandal.
The show will be playing at the Victoria Theater on 16th and Capp streets this Friday and Saturday at 8 to 9:15 p.m., and on Sunday from 6 to 7:15 p.m. Tickets are available here.