By Colleen Steppa, Theater Reviewer
Anna in the Tropics is a sexy, sweet, sad set of love stories with all the drama of a telenovela and poetry reminiscent of Tennessee Williams. Set in 1920s Miami Cuban cigar factory, we meet a family who keeps their old traditions alive by hand-rolling while listening to a lector read aloud classical literature. The factory is all abuzz over the newest lector, the handsome Juan Julian, whose controversial selection starts the wheels in motion for real-life drama.
Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussen writes in her forward that she chose Anna in the Tropics for the theater’s opening show in February partially to transport us to a sultry warm destination, which is amusing given that the characters in the show fantasize their own theatrical escapes in Anna Karenina’s Russian winter landscape. Tolstoy’s passages are matched by florid passages in the dialogue. Metaphors and themes are heavy, with foreshadowing in Russian-drama level proportions. Impetuous Marela, who Juan Julian describes as “clear as water,” swoons over the lector’s every word, sighing “you can smell the cologne from his handkerchief every time he dries his forehead. The fragrance wraps itself around the words like smoke.”
In addition to the romantic twists, debates on progress and tradition weave through the storyline like the smoke that fills the theater. Yes, they do really smoke a real cigar in this show. Don’t sit in the front row or bring a newborn if that bothers you. Personally, I found the smoking scene a charming addition – true to the setting, each character smokes in their own style with so much is said in gesture and pose. Like in the traditional tales, cigar smoke brings up messages to the sky, the divine power of literature sublimates our desires and transports far from the familiar, whether cold or hot.
Anna is written by Nilo Cruz, directed by Larissa Kokernot, with performances by Adlyn Carreras, Cristina Florencia Castro, Juan Rivera Lebron, Nora Montañez, Rich Remedios, Al Clemente Saks, and Dario Tangelson. It is showing at the Jungle Theater on Tuesdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2:00 & 7:30, from 2/11 until 3/12.
For tickets, please see the Jungle’s webpage, here.
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