Actress Maribel Gonzalez is using laughter to overcome adversity as one of her strongest supporters is losing a battle with an incurable disease.
By Rodolfo Roman
Special to The Miami Herald
For Consuelo Luque, 74, watching her daughter Maria Belen Gonzalez, an actress, has been more than just entertainment.
“I’ve criticized her and when I see something wrong I tell her,” said Luque, who sits in the last row of nearly every play in which her daughter performs. “I get a good view of the stage and the reaction of the crowd.”
However, Gonzalez’s toughest critic is losing a deadly battle against breast cancer.
On Saturday and Sunday, Gonzalez’s latest comedic bi-lingual production, You Are Going Out with Tres Mujeres y Que tu Wifee no se Entere, which translates to You Are Going Out With Three Women and I Hope Your Wife Doesn’t Find Out, will be a tribute to her mother. The play will be performed at Manuel Artime Theater, 900 SW First Ave., Miami.
“I am dedicating the show to my mother and hopefully many more,” Gonzalez said.
Ever since her mother was diagnosed with the disease in 2005, Gonzalez, 48, who’s stage name is Maribel Gonzalez, has faced hardships, but has relied on comedy to brighten her family’s spirit.
“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for her,” Gonzalez said.
Growing up, Gonzalez’s mother would encourage her to get involved with the arts. Fortunately for her, Gonzalez’s father Alberto Gonzalez was a well-known author and produced a political satire television show in his homeland of Cuba. But, he fled in the 1960’s along with Luque after the Castro regime took over the island. His search for freedom eventually led to Colombia, Puerto Rico and Miami.
In Puerto Rico, Alberto produced another political show, where Maria, who was born in Miami, made many cameos.
“She was born watching several artists,” said Luque.
Maria was raised between Miami and Puerto Rico. In South Florida, she attended Coral Park Senior High School, where she studied theater.
She later would work alongside her father and mother in a Miami theater they once owned, Teatro Cuba.
“One of her first plays was Mujeres, which translates to Women,” remembers Luque.
But, the local exposure wasn’t enough for her so Maria went in search of an opportunity in New Jersey where she reached success. With little experience, she took on the challenge of writing her own productions, and has since she put together more than 10 plays.
Luque would fly to the northeast coast to watch her daughter. She would serve as a cheer-leader during rehearsals, said Gonzalez. However, today Luque said she doesn’t bother criticizing her daughter.
“I used to push her a lot, but now there’s no need,” she said. ”She is good.”
Maria values every day with her mother as her last day on earth is unknown. Luque’s sickness now prohibits her from traveling as the disease is taking over her body. So, since the play is taking place in Miami, Luque won’t have to travel far.
As for her two hour comedic play, Maria will perform as four characters. The story is about Delfino, portrayed by Luis Rivas, who cheats on his wife with three women, but refuses to get a divorce. The man cares too much about his wife. To him, the relationship feels more like a friendship than a marriage. The play was performed in New Jersey last year. There are 9 actors and 6 dancers from Ritmo y Pasion.
“This was a way of releasing my sadness,” Maria said. ”This is the best medicine.”
Luque’s daughter is now playing another role, as a nurse. She takes her mom to doctor’s appointments and keeps an eye on her medication.
But, laughter is what soothes their soul, she said.
“There is not a chance that I am going to stop and that is making her laugh when we are at the doctors or doing chemotherapy,” Maria said. “The love, laughter and praying has kept her alive and beating the odds. It is not difficult when your mother gives you unconditional love. She doesn’t demand anything from anyone.”
Before the play, Maria said, she always spreads the message about preventing cancer and thanks her mother for her support. To Maria, Luque is her life.
“I am trying my best to make her happy as much as I can,” she said. “We are friends. She is my mother, sister, father brother; she is everything anybody can want from a person.”
Despite her sickness, Luque is always there to support her, said Maria, who has also appeared in movies, soap operas and commercials.
“She has an incredible sense of humor,” she said. “She is an amazing human being. I am who I am because of my mother.”