Andrew Boyce's set draws focus to the early 1970s, upon a well-worn, single story, rectangular ranch house, bathed within dim, yellow hues as provided by lighting designer Jesse Belsky. The incredibly lovely Ceci (Onahoua Rodriguez) has been disabled since she was a passenger in an automobile accident a couple of years before. Her body, as it spasms, cannot be controlled. She appears on a downstage pad or mattress as the play begins. Her father, Claudio (Armando Duran), drinks beer and watches television; he is given to rage. Rene (Tony Sancho) is the older brother who was driving the car when Ceci was injured. Now, he is gruff, coarse, and presents an unsympathetic figure. Misha (Carlo Alban), who writes verse, cares so, so deeply for and about his stricken sister. Rosa (Catalina Maynard) is a mother who attempts to maintain stability and calm within the family. Actor Christian Barillas plays the cousin, Alvaro, who was in the car with Rene and Ceci just before she was to turn fifteen years of age. Now, Alvaro is joining the border patrol (as the play transpires in El Paso, Texas, next to Mexico); Rene is, not surprisingly, outraged.
Lydia (Stephanie Beatriz) is the final character to speak. She is: shining, responsive, magicaland a Mexican immigrant who has not been documented. She comes to the household to clean and cook. She also understands Ceci as no one else can. The play, on one level, is about the simultaneously mystical and yet real connection between two young women who are physically stunning. Much of the time Ceci utters, as she writhes, indecipherable, guttural utterances. At other moments, Ceci returns to the young woman she once wasa person who dreams of wonderful sexual moments, who is playful, loving, and articulate. During her difficult times as her body twitches and painfully jerks with bursts this way and that, Lydia tends her knowingly and lovingly, communicating with Ceci.
Lydia is a complicated and, at times, convoluted play. People and worlds collide in violent fashion. Solis does season the script with touching moments. The young women are spiritually bound and Misha is warm and ardent. Lydia was developed last year at the Denver Center Theatre Company where Carrillo (who graduated from Yale School of Drama) directed. Several current cast members reprise the roles they originated in Denver. Carrillo's direction includes lovely staging just after intermission, a sequence which finds the actors playing as children. Boyce supplies large, flowing sheets which envelop the interior of the home as the characters run about.
I was totally taken with the instant transitions Rodriguez (as Ceci) makes from the reality of her tortured state to another realm which bestows innocence and hope, as if her malfunctioning brain temporarily grants her release from captivity. Beatriz, playing the nurturing Lydia, is a gift to Ceci.
This is a profound and powerful play which I found difficult to fully appreciate on first take. It must be said that some characters (aside from Ceci and Lydia) are recognizable types. Still, all have value and importance as the plot moves forward. The performances transpire within contexts of reality and imagination. Thus, tone and atmosphere are important assets. Music man David Molina, director Carrillo, the entire artistic team, and an impressive cast all make singular contributions. Finally, here's a most positive nod toward Octavio Solis, who brings us the script.
Lydia continues at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven through February 28th. For ticket information visit www.yalerep.org or call (203) 432-1234.
- Fred Sokol