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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

The Beauty of the Father
at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Also see David's review of Yankee Doodle Dandy

Beauty of the Father
Tom Ramirez and Jonathan Nichols
Transporting, seductive and magical - all are adjectives suitable to describe Nilo Cruz's The Beauty of the Father. This new Cruz play (his Pulitzer Prize winning Anna in the Tropics will grace the Rep's mainstage in the 2004-2005 season) is given a worthy, warm-hearted production with effortlessly graceful direction by the Rep's artistic director Sharon Ott and a fine cast.

Set at a Spanish seaside villa in a village near Granada, this is a dreamlike tale of a grown young woman named Marina seeking to bond with her long-estranged artist father following her mother's death. The complexities of the relationships between Marina, her father Emiliano, the fiery middle-aged senora Paquita and her attractive Moroccan perfume seller/husband (for citizenship purposes) Karim unravel in a leisurely yet compelling manner. Observing all this is the dapper linen-suited angel/ghost of the late Spanish poet-playwright Federico García Lorca. Lorca is our narrator and Emiliano's confidante, though he can will himself to be seen by others.

Cruz slowly reveals that the personable yet wily Karim, who has obvious desires for the lovely Marina, came into her father's life through the bedroom door. The stage is obviously set for a triangle leading to tragedy, and what comes is something less predictable and much more soul satisfying. Cruz's language is musical and poetic yet never precious, and Ott's finely tuned quartet of actors presents the author's work with great skill and delicacy.

Jonathan Nichols is a wonder as Lorca, with the matinee idol sensuality and humor of Antonio Banderas but without the heavy accent to get in the way. His bit with a ventriloquist dummy is an odd but definite highlight. Tom Ramirez as Emiliano has a powerful stage presence and authority, with great warmth underlying his character's somewhat gruff demeanor. Karmin Murcelo as the lusty but world-weary Paquita delivers most of the show's comedy with great brio, but carefully shows her character's underlying heartaches and vulnerability (and she has a killer late act two monologue that sent my companion scurrying to find a copy of the script to use at auditions). Onahoua Rodriguez is appealingly warm as Marina, though the actress could use some work on modulating her vocal patterns. Paul Nicholas is a very believable Gypsy charmer Karim, though somewhat lacking in the kind of charisma one would expect his character to have, given his romantic effect on the other characters.

Etta Lillienthal's scenic design had me ready to book a Mexican hacienda vacation, and it is lit with lipid elegance by lighting designer Peter Maradudin. Deborah Trout has designed ideally suitable costumes, particularly Marina's various looks and Lorca's old-fashioned linen outfit.

With The Beauty of the Father, the Rep ends its season on a high note that keeps a Latin guitar in your ear and a memory of cherished family ties in your heart.

The Beauty of the Father runs through May 15 at the Seattle Rep's Leo K theatre, in Seattle Center. For further information visit the Rep online at www.seattlerep.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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