Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Also see Zander's review of Man of La Mancha
Valeria (Adriana Sevahn Nichols), an elderly woman afflicted with Alzheimer's, gazes at the stage before her where she sees a much younger version of herself (Irene Sofia Lucio) dazzling an audience in a nightclub as she dances and becomes the focus of a sleight-of-hand act. Youthful Valeria is accompanied by her true love, Alonso (Arturo Soria). The flashback vignette, complete with Frank Sinatra singing "Come Fly with Me," is immediately illuminating. As the unsteady Valeria, Nichols wears upon her face the perplexity of one who might or might not be making connections with her past.
Soon it is August, 1992, and Hurricane Andrew devastates Miami. Ximena (Maria-Christina Oliveras) is Valerie's daughter who has a twenty-something daughter of her own named Miranda (Irene Sofia Lucio in her second role). Miranda, a student, is punk but smart and defends her grandmother. Ximena wants her mother, the confused Valeria, to be safe and protected from the storm. Miranda and Ximena clash and struggle. Each is strong and each is emotive.
A most affecting and, really, affectionate scene occurs as Miranda attempts to place a protective board upon a house. She is more or less courted, during the lively vignette, by Fernando (played by Arturo Soria). The sequence is sweet, funny and revealing.
Every so often, Alicia (Jennifer Paredes), seemingly swimming in a yellow bathing suit with turquoise polka dots, makes a touching appearance. Evidently, she was Valeria's little sister, and Valeria recalls her and is enlivened when the delightful girl materializes. Valeria, infirm and unable to recall the past due to her disease, treasures her delightful sister. Valeria also, we learn through references to decades gone by, was fond of her husband Alonso (Jonathan Nichols).,
Eventually, Castro Smith moves the proceedings forward to August, 2019, and an imagined Hurricane Penelope. Ximena and Miranda have not set eyes upon one another in 27 years. Ximena has a daughter named Val (Paredes). Theo (Soria), nephew to Ximena, is also included. The intensity, however, has further accentuated between Miranda and her mother Ximena.
The design team assembled for this show is, to a person, exemplary. Costumer Herin Kaputkin furnishes a swanky dress for the vibrant, young, attractive Valeria during the opening sequence. Alicia's swimsuit is eye-catching. Gerardo Diaz Sanchez's settings are wonderfully evocative but not overwhelming. He and projection designer Yaara Bar create swirls of rain and ocean, while Megumi Katayama's hurricane noise is a fitting accompaniment. The opening moments are executed in snappy fashion through Angharad Davies' choreography and Christopher Rose's magic design.
Some portions of El Huracán are a bit confounding, but also mystically entrancing. Director Woolery, working well with Castro Smith's piercing, moving script, finds the core of the play's theme as these characters all wish to somehow survive. The metaphor, the tumultuous potency of hurricanes, is not lost.
As Valeria, Adriana Sevahn Nichols, her ability to walk hindered, is unhurried. The actress has a knowing feel for this character, a woman yearning and in need, who is living in her own orbit. Every one of the multi-cast actors is most adept and each is inviting and versatile.
El Huracán, heartfelt and stimulating, may be appreciated through various perspectives. The drama, deep-rooted and complicated, is not easily dismissed.
El Huracán, through October 20, 2018, at the University Theatre in New Haven CT. For tickets, call 203- 432-1234 or visit yalerep.org.