Dream On

Nilo Cruz's latest story of love, loss, family, and dislocation is more than just another tale of Cuban-American woe

Hortensia is well supported by an outstanding production team. Michelle Cummings's set design is simple and functional: a pair of double doors, a stone stairway, some wooden shutters that serve to evoke the many scene settings as the narrative careens along. Travis Neff's delicate, evocative lighting adds a sensual, dreamlike quality. To this add the outstanding sound design by Steve Shapiro, full of music and tropical sounds, and the net result is captivating.

Certainly there is room for improvement. The play focuses on the ambiguities and disorientation of its characters, but the production could use more clarity. The opening sequence, which delivers a lot of information in a rat-a-tat-tat declamatory style, is hard to follow. While Luciana's reason for being in Cuba is clear, Luca's is not. Does each know the other is going there? How did Luciana end up in Hortensia's small town? The questions may well have been answered in the opening setup, but the hard facts blow by so quickly, much can be missed. Both playwright and director might do well to think through how to set up their story a bit better.

De Acha, the production's director, has found an ideal match in Cruz. This is not merely because of their common Cuban heritage but rather their shared affinity for the rhythms and music of language, their dignity, their humanity, and a mutual penchant for theatricality. Add to this an excellent acting ensemble and production team, and what we have here is a company that recalls the early days of the Circle Repertory Theater Company in New York City, when Marshall Mason staged many of Lanford Wilson's plays, which spoke to its audience on a very intimate level. Let us hope that the Cruz/de Acha collaboration will continue.

Statistics show that the theater market in South Florida is one of the largest in the nation in terms of box-office dollars. But for many decades, artistically this region has been the end of the theater line, serving up tired retreads of tried-and-true hits. Happily recent years and several vigorous local theater companies have produced a reversal to that trend. Just as we are seeing in music and the visual arts, the local stage scene is poised to make an impact in the national arena. If Hortensiais any indication, the upcoming season and the future of South Florida theater looks very bright indeed.

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