Up from the Ashes

On a metaphorical sea, rafters become more than refugees; they are symbols of rebirth and redemption

From the beginning Cenizas feels as much dance as it does theater. Having no intermission or overtly delineated scene change, Sanchez and Vega have brilliantly worked with movement and gesture to mark not the passing of time but the various stages of the soul in its search for a resting place. In these moments the cast often slows its movements to a standstill. With Ricardo Rodriguez's exquisite lighting design, the effect is visually arresting. Despite the Colony's medium size, Rodriguez manages to capture the actors' faces, which are painted in silver, creating the effect of a photograph.

The set design is intriguing in that designer Leandro Soto has not tried to replicate a real raft. Instead he weaves together shells, rags, and rope in a circle on the floor. Soto, an accomplished Cuban visual artist himself, has a minimalist design style that corresponds well with the directors' vision, making the raft a blank canvas rather than the site for a real voyage.

Mario Ernesto Sanchez, who also is the festival's director, has made an effort for the past few years to give several plays English supertitles. Unfortunately the English translations projected above the stage at the Colony could be seen clearly only when the theater was very dark. Although the play is very physical and dancelike in nature, Assad's text is quite abstract and lyrical. It would be hard for non-Spanish speakers to understand without a translation.

One hundred years without solitude, adrift on the Latin-American sea
One hundred years without solitude, adrift on the Latin-American sea
One hundred years without solitude, adrift on the Latin-American sea
One hundred years without solitude, adrift on the Latin-American sea

Theatergoers who missed the debut will have a chance to see Cenizas Sobre el Mar in July. "Castaways are dead until found alive," declares Pedro. The same is true for works of art. This play manages to revive and reinvigorate the age-old symbol of the sea as the universal metaphor for life, travel, birth, passage, and death. We are lucky that it has washed upon our shores.

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