Anna in the Tropics
Nilo Cruz grabbed the theater world’s attention last year when his play Anna in the Tropics won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. After a stint on Broadway, the show is being seen in many a regional theater. The play now makes its Washington premiere at DC’s Arena Stage.
Anna in the Tropics is a beautifully told story about a family-owned cigar factory in Florida during the 1920s. As was the custom in those days, the factory workers use their own earnings to pay for a “lector” to read aloud to them as they work. The lector is a charismatic man who causes quite a stir in the factory. His presence is felt even more intensely when he begins to read Anna Karenina to the workers. The group becomes engrossed in the romantic tale and it encourages them to think of new life choices.
Nilo Cruz does a masterful job of bringing out the parallels between the Tolstoy novel and the lives of these factory workers. His dialogue is fresh and full of wonderful imagery. He also manages to illustrate the contrasts between the novel’s fantasy world and the harsh reality of the Tampa cigar factory.
Jo Bonney exhibits outstanding work in her role as director. The play flows well and each character is shown to their best advantage. The set design by Loy Arcenas is a good representation of an old cigar factory and the lighting by Scott Zielinski magnifies some key moments.
Anna is staffed with a wonderful cast that includes Jason Manuel Olazábal (Juan Julian) as the appealing lector. Olazábal is quite seductive in his portrayal and he exhibits a confidence that serves the character well. Marian Licha as Ofelia displays a great depth in a character that is one part matriarch and one part temptress. As her daughter Marela, Michele Vazquez is absolutely stunning. Yetta Gottesman (Conchita) and Felix Solis (Palomo) give extremely strong performances as well.
Anna in the Tropics is an emotional experience that stays with one long after the curtain has gone down. It may also inspire many to pick up a copy of Anna Karenina. A play like this is what makes going to the theater worthwhile. Anna in the Tropics runs through November 21st in the Kreeger Theatre.
Arena Stage - The Kreeger Theatre
Palomo/Eliades: Felix Solis