Fizz poses a question: What is the real thing? At New Theatre in Coral Gables through Dec. 19, this comic romp written by Rogelio Martinez and directed by Ricky J. Martinez depicts one of the biggest marketing debacles in U.S. history — the meteoric launch and colossal nose dive of New Coke in 1985.
But there’s much more at stake than the success of a new flavor. In Fizz, the “real” United States is pitted against an immigrant’s vision; the public’s perception dwarfs the product itself; and one man’s belief in science and his own genius is put to the test.
New Coke was based on CEO Robert Goizueta’s belief that Coca-Cola had engineered a better-tasting soft drink, but after three months of public protests and public-relations gaffes, the company reintroduced the original elixir as Coca-Cola Classic, confirming Goizueta’s misjudgment and stamping New Coke’s demise.
Without being a work of biography, Fizz centers on the life of Goizueta (brilliantly portrayed by Carlos Orizondo), who went from managing a bottling plant in his native Cuba to heading up one of the most profitable corporations in the world. Wisely, playwright Martinez limits the scope of Fizz to the New Coke uproar and Goizueta’s struggle to understand the failure of what seemed to be a no-fail product launch.
Under the direction of Ricky J. Martinez, Orizondo carries the role with restraint and humor, but his Goizueta also has teeth. His passion and prowess are most vividly displayed during his verbal jousts with his right-hand man Ron (Bill Schwartz), who hopes to capitalize on New Coke’s failure and usurp Goizueta’s position. Ron tells Goizueta he’s not “American” enough to run Coca-Cola. Goizueta counters that this country is “made of people who aren’t from here” — a predictable enough debate made visceral by Orizondo’s magnetic stage presence and Schwartz’s intense antagonism.
Ricky J. Martinez injects a healthy dose of parody and farce, and the trio of Francesca Toledo, Aubrey Shavonn and Tara Vodihn are funny and energetic as they race through multiple roles as Rockettes, shoppers and more.
Fizz is not a painstaking introspective. Coca-Cola the corporation and Goizueta are painted in largely benign brush strokes.
On the whole, the play is as effervescent as its title.
However, it has the gall to assume that between nostalgia for his homeland and disdain for its dictator, a Cuban immigrant can actually have a life, one that, as immigrant stories go, just might be “the real thing.”