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CPT’s and TPC join forces for an intriguing drama of the effects of personality shifts

Nobody is perfect. Yet, it is human nature to attempt to improve ourselves. If this was not the case; self help books, tapes, CDs, classes and seminars would not be the billion dollar a year world wide industry that it is. After all, we all know that true success seldom comes to the shy. It takes brass to get ahead which means training ourselves to be bolder than we currently are. Anyhow, that is how most of us delude ourselves through our lives.

But what happens when we take things to the extreme, to the point where we make irreversible changes in our character to where we cannot tell where the old “us” leaves off and the new “us” begins. This is the idea behind Tania Benites’ “Alter”’ directed by Kari Barclay and now on stage in the Cleveland Public Theatre’s James Levin Theatre. The show is a collaboration between Cleveland Public Theatre and Teatro Publico de Cleveland and features projected translations above the stage. “Alter” began in a CPT workshop where it graduated to the stage in iObras en Evolucion! (TCP’s reading festival in 2018). It went on to “Test Flight” where the story was expanded to the current main stage production.

Maria (Andrea de la Fuente) works for “KAPOW” as a phone order taker. We never quite learn what KAPOW sells but orders come in on a regular basis. The job of the order taker is to “sell up” the customer to a higher bracket. For Maria it is a dead end job much like all the jobs she has ever had. There is the bossy female, Trisha (Monica A. Cerpa Zúñiga) who is the atypical over-achiever who lords herself over everyone. There is the creepy supervisor, Craig (David L. Munnell) who pushes-pushes-pushes for higher numbers “or else”. Lacking the killer instinct necessary to be successful Maria tries yet another self help technique involving self hypnosis that is taught by the Narrator (Alisha Caraballo).

In effect Maria creates an alter-ego (Rajah Morales) who is able to accomplish what Maria cannot. “M” is everything that Maria lacks. She Is Strong! She Is Powerful! She Is Ambitious! It is “M” who stands up to Trisha and tells her to “shut up!”. It is “M” who begins a dating relationship with Steve (Lionel Morales) the tech guy. It is “M” who gets the job done and is top seller of the month (for which she earns a poster with her name and photo on it).

Along with her job, Maria also has her mom (Sylka Edmonson) who tries to counsel Maria in the ways of the world. Mom also discovers boxes of long forgotten childhood artifacts including Maria’s diary that has Maria’s life long plan of world domination by the quiet people of the planet.

As for the production, it is top notch. While the set is minimalist (starting out with two painted walls and a screened wall with door). The panels are able to be swiftly turned around to be a kitchen, office cubicle and restaurant. The lighting is bright and focused. Both set and lighting design is by Benjamin Gantose. Joshua Smith handles the sound design which is excellent and Obed Medina handles the job of Supertitles Translator while Karin Rios is the Supertitles Operator. Desiree Monique Anderson does the costume design with a great eye for fashion and reality.

The actors have been well versed in their roles as well. Andrea de la Fuente is perfectly cast as the socially adrift Maria. Rahaj Morales does a fine turn as Maria’s alter-ego and the two work well in sync with both voice and movement. Alisha Caraballo is the Narrator who calmly explains the various self help steps needed for total fulfillment and control. Monica A. Cerpa Zúñiga is perfect as the domineering Trisha who is not above cheating in order to maintain her control. Lionel Morales slides in well as the office tech who is able to break through to Maria and form a romance only to be cast aside. David L. Munnell is the perfect office supervisor who lives in fear of those above him and takes out this frustration on his hirelings. Lastly, Sylka Edmonson as Mom is the loving sympathetic ear for her daughter.

What happens when we simultaneously become our biggest asset and worst enemy through the miracle of self-help aids. This is the twisted tale of two personalities inhabiting a single body. We cheer when Maria stands up to her over dominating co-working but agonize at the price she eventually pays. Come see this intriguing play.

The Cleveland Public Theatre’s/Teatro Publico de Cleveland production of “Alter” will be on stage at the James Levin Theatre at 6415 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio through February 24, 2024. For more information and to order tickets go to http:// or call (216) 631-2727 x501.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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