Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

Anna In The Tropics Opens at
The Coconut Grove Playhouse

Review by John Lariviere

Also see John's review of Someone Who'll Watch Over Me

Onahoua Rodriguez, Teresa Maria Rojas, and Adriana Sevan
In a culture that is focused on the fast fix of X-Box games and hundreds of TV channels, we have nearly forgotten the power of great works of literature to transform our lives with beauty and enlightenment. They are too often remembered as the dreaded required reading of our scholastic pasts. Playwright Nilo Cruz tells the story of such a work's ability to change the lives of one family in his play, the Tony Award nominated Anna In The Tropics. The setting is Tampa in 1929, where a family of Cuban cigar makers hires a lector to entertain the tobacco workers by reading books aloud to them as they work. The lector chooses to read to them Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, and their lives begin their metamorphoses.

Nilo Cruz's style is reflective of a young Tennessee Williams, his use of poetic imagery leaving a lasting impression. I was left with the image refered to by one of the characters which I paraphrase: "each Cuban man takes two wives, and one of them is his cigar - its white smoke floating around his head like a bridal veil." His characters are well layered with an unquenched thirst for intimacy. All that is missing is a smoother framework for these characters and their lovely poetic words. This undoubtedly will come to the playwright with the passage of time. He is the first Hispanic writer to be honored with a Pulitzer Prize and is the recipient the American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg Award.

This production of Anna In The Topics is directed by the playwright himself with a cast of actors who have performed his works before. With a good set, costumes, and sound designed to set the mood, the Coconut Grove Playhouse has a successful show on its hands. Adriana Sevan and Carlos Orizondo are compelling as husband and wife, with a longingly tormented chemistry together like that of Maggie and Brick in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

Teresa Maria Rojas is engaging and lighthearted in her role as Ofelia. While Andrew Hamrick as Cheche is unfortunately so deliberate in his acting style that he is sometimes uncomfortable to watch, Onahoua Rodriguez convincingly plays the youthful and callow Marela, though some poetic images slip from her lips a bit too blithely.

After seeing this play, I wanted to buy the book so that I could read some of the beautifully written images again and again. Anna In The Tropics will be playing at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami until October 24th. Tickets for this show and information on their season may be obtained by calling 305/ 442-4000, or online at The Coconut Grove Playhouse is a LORT Equity theater hiring professional actors from across the United States; and offers acting classes for children and adults.

Photo: Bill Sumner

-- John Lariviere

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- Kevin Johnson

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