BEST SPANISH-LANGUAGE PRODUCTION Miami 2002 - Cenizas Sobre el Mar
On a metaphorical sea four rafters (a soldier, an explorer, a priest, and an archetypal female) became more than refugees -- they grew into symbols of rebirth and redemption in Teatro Avante's rendition of Colombian playwright José Assad's Cenizas Sobre el Mar (Ashes on the Sea). An enigmatic elixir of magical realism and theater of the absurd, the play, written by Assad in 1989 to commemorate the 500-year anniversary of the so-called discovery of America, concerned four rafters who have been adrift at sea for 100 years. They are symbols of Latin America as a continent of people uprooted, at war, searching, creating and re-creating identities. The key to the play's success? The trinity of theater's most fundamental elements: script, set, and performance. Assad's wonderfully poetic text worked like waves, using the ebb and flow of fixed refrains to give it cohesiveness. Ingeniously, set designer Leandro Soto, an accomplished Cuban visual artist himself, wove together shells, rags, and rope in a circle on the floor, making the raft a blank canvas rather than the site for a real voyage. The actors managed to shape-shift yet remain recognizable. They were at once thumb-sucking and ornery children, raving madmen, soldiers, travelers, and lovers. Cenizas Sobre el Mar revived and reinvigorated the age-old symbol of the sea as the universal metaphor for life, travel, birth, passage, and death. We were lucky to have it wash up on our shores.