A fam­ily’s cry for heal­ing

‘Tem­pest’-like metaphor car­ries mag­i­cal ‘El Hu­ra­can’ in Yale Rep opener

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - LOCAL NEWS - By E. Kyle Mi­nor

Charise Cas­tro Smith’s mys­ti­cal, po­etic “El Hu­ra­can,” now in its world pre­miere at Yale Rep’s Univer­sity Theatre, is a fam­ily play re­plete with metaphor and magic in its ex­plo­ration of the heal­ing prop­er­ties of for­give­ness for loved ones, es­pe­cially one’s self.

In part­ner­ship with The Sol Project, a the­ater ini­tia­tive cre­ated to bring Latinex writ­ers to a broader au­di­ence, “El Hu­ra­can,” is epic in­so­far as it in­cludes four gen­er­a­tions of a Cuban Amer­i­can fam­ily clutch­ing on to it­self against the forces of na­ture that cycli­cally ramp up the chaos of daily life. Yet Cas­tro Smith, direc­tor Lau­rie Wool­ery and their de­sign team achieve this grand scheme through sim­plic­ity.

This is not to sug­gest that Christo­pher Rose, the pro­duc­tion’s magic de­signer, skimps on the il­lu­sion­ary tricks. On the con­trary, Adri­ana Se­vahn Nichols, who plays Va­lerie, the mater­fa­mil­ias and one-time queen of night­club en­ter­tain­ment with her snazzy magic act, in­deed proves a con­vinc­ing sor­cerer in flash­backs to her hey­day. Yet scenic de­signer Ger­ardo Díaz Sanchez, along with light­ing de­signer Nic Vin­cent, sound de­signer Megumi Katayama and pro­jec­tion de­signer Yaara Bar, are the real ma­gi­cians who cre­ate the il­lu­sion of not one but two mon­ster hur­ri­canes that an­tag­o­nize Va­lerie and her fam­ily.

In­spired by Shake­speare’s “The Tem­pest,” Cas­tro Smith sets “El Hu­ra­can” amid two cat­a­strophic storms: Hur­ri­cane An­drew in 1992, and the fic­ti­tious Pene­lope set in Au­gust 2019. If one storm re­sem­bles oth­ers, that only points up one’s sense of dread and deja vu, as the char­ac­ters seem fated to re­peat the sins of their pre­de­ces­sors, as, most as­suredly, will their prog­eny.

While the storms are a the­atri­cally apt and ex­plicit metaphor of na­ture’s in­dis­crim­i­nate danger, guilt and grudges are the sub­tle, in­sid­i­ous storms that ma­roon these char­ac­ters away from each other. As “El Hu­ra­can” ex­em­pli­fies, for­give­ness — es­pe­cially for our­selves — is dif­fi­cult to ac­cept as guilt is a mighty ob­struc­tion.

The pro­duc­tion starts with the aged Va­lerie (Nichols) alone on stage, as if in her own uni­verse. The cruel rav­ages of time are po­et­i­cally and poignantly ev­i­dent as she watches Irene Sofia Lu­cio as young Va­lerie, dressed in a fash­ion­able, cobalt blue 1950s dress, im­me­di­ately ac­com­pa­nied by her as­sis­tant Alonso (Ar­turo So­ria), for­mally dressed in tails. Va­lerie basks in the glow of her youth­ful in­vin­ci­bil­ity. For Va­lerie, who suf­fers from Alzheimer’s dis­ease, these by­gone images sup­ply nearly all of her lu­cid mo­ments and soul­ful com­fort.

Soon enough, Va­lerie finds her­self mired in the present, con­fused as her daugh­ter Xim­ina (Mari­aChristina Oliv­eras), pre­oc­cu­pied by the com­ing storm, and grand­daugh­ter Mi­randa (Irene Sofia Lu­cio) look on. Cas­tro Smith ef­fec­tively de­picts how chaos swirling in­side and out of the younger women’s nor­mally at­ten­tive minds causes them to lose track of what’s most im­por­tant.

Hence­forth, the play moves for­ward to next Au­gust, mak­ing sev­eral stops along the way as Va­lerie, or “Abuela” to her fam­ily, re­verts to var­i­ous episodes in her com­pli­cated past. She shares ten­der mem­o­ries of her Alonso (Jonathan Nichols), who woos Va­lerie through her young years and even af­ter they marry. She also flashes back to her in­valu­able time shared with her younger sis­ter Ali­cia (Jen­nifer Pare­des), who ob­vi­ously af­fects Va­lerie long af­ter Ali­cia’s phys­i­cally out of her big sis­ter’s reach.

Though the play runs 100 min­utes without in­ter­mis­sion, it fea­tures a vir­tual sec­ond part where Xi­men and Mi­randa are 27 years older and re­spon­si­ble to the next gen­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing Mi­randa’s daugh­ter Val (Pare­des again) and nephew Theo (So­ria again). This shorter act may be a bit more pre­dictable but nonethe­less en­light­en­ing in how na­ture cru­elly re­peats its storms, both baro­met­ri­cally and men­tally, on this fam­ily. This flash for­ward to the next gen­eral may con­fuse some au­di­ence mem­bers as well, busy track­ing the var­i­ous char­ac­ters through the time shifts.

Cas­tro Smith mit­i­gates much of this po­ten­tial prob­lem by hav­ing part two’s main char­ac­ters, Xi­mena and Mi­randa, change cos­tumes in front of the au­di­ence, de­liv­er­ing mono­logues as pro­duc­tion as­sis­tants change their ap­pear­ance.

It’s this style of “magic” that makes “El Hu­ra­can” vis­ually and in­tel­lec­tu­ally com­pelling. Cas­tro Smith does the rest by in­fus­ing her char­ac­ters with gen­uine heart and soul, prov­ing that by cre­at­ing a very spe­cific world on stage, a play­wright can strike a chord of uni­ver­sal­ity.

Cather­ine Aval­one / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Ar­turo So­ria as Fer­nando and Maria-Christina Oliv­eras as Xi­mena in “El Hu­ra­can” at Yale Rwep’s Univer­sity Theatre.

Cather­ine Aval­one / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Adri­ana Se­vahn Nichols as Va­le­ria and Jen­nifer Pare­des as Ali­cia in “El Hu­ra­can,” run­ning through Oct. 20.

Irene Sofia Lu­cio as Mi­randa and Adri­ana Se­vahn Nichols as Va­le­ria.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.