My continuing review series of the plays collected in Geek Theater: 15 Plays by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers is back after a very long delay! Each post will focus on one or two of the plays collected in the volume.
I was frankly a little surprised to find a play like Carlos Hernandez’s The Clockwork Comrade in the Geek Theater collection. Not only is it a far lighter form of sci-fi than the other plays in the volume – I’d say it’s more of a historical fantasy – it is also wonderfully suffused with Cuban culture, giving it a singular energy and unmistakable voice.
The story seems in part autobiographical and takes the form of a memory play. Hernandez is a Cuban-American English professor, who dedicates the play to his uncle, Juanito. Indeed, the main characters in the play are a Cuban-American English professor named Carlos and his uncle Juanito, who is visiting from Cuba. They are in the Watch, Clock, and Timepieces aisle of GlutGo, a membership based superstore in the vein of Sam’s Club or Costco. While looking at the clocks and reflecting on American consumerism and Cuban communism, Juanito spins a long and fantastical yarn about his brother, who he calls “Tío Reloj” and who Carlos in 44 years has never heard of.
In Spanish, Tío Reloj translates to “Uncle Clock,” a nickname bestowed upon this mysterious uncle because of his preternatural aptitude for repairing watches. Even this much sounds like nonsense to Carlos, who suspects that these tall tales about Tío Reloj are actually just disguised stories about Juanito himself. But then Juanito’s story leaps beyond mere exaggeration into the realm of whimsical fantasy, when Tío Reloj inherits a barn full of watches that should have been turned over to Fidel Castro’s government. Instead of turning them over, Tío Reloj takes them apart and reassembles them as a sentient and pro-Castro grandfather clock named Segundo (Spanish for “second”). The amazing story of Segundo – who speaks using a sophisticated code based on placement of his hour hand, minute hand and moon dial – spreads throughout Cuba and Tío Reloj jury-rigs a cart to show him off as a roadside attraction. Eventually word reaches Castro himself, who demands that this robotic Fidelista be brought before him.
As I said, it’s a surprising entry into this mostly heavy sci-fi collection. If I were pressed to criticize anything, it would be that the narrative about Carlos and Juanito is a little thin, but that’s kind of the point – we’re supposed to get wrapped up in Juanito’s tale and I totally did. I never knew I wanted a story about a talking grandfather clock meeting Castro, but this play is so charming and unique that it completely won me over.
For more information or to purchase a copy of Geek Theater visit: http://underwordspress.com/underwords_book/geek-theater/