Boleros for the Disenchanted
An Examination of Love and Marriage
By Bob and Karen Isaacs
A warm feeling will sweep through you after you experience this sweet work by the fine playwright Jose Rivera that celebrates love and marriage and its problems and its obligations.
Directed by Henry Godinez against a flower-ladened backdrop created by Linda Buchanan and with costumes by Yuri Cataldo, Boleros covers a 40-year span and moves from Puerto Rico, act one, to Alabama, act two. The actors each play different roles in each time. The role of the young girl at the beginning, Flora, is played simply by Sona Tatioyan. Unfortunately, she like the other characters are not really developed in act 1; these seem to be spouting points of view rather than real feelings. But with the second act, 40-years later, genuine emotion comes across and you are captured by the passions of the characters, all of whom are playing different roles.
Act one, 1953, has Flora engaged to Manuelo (Felix Soltis) who believes “men need to be men” and that fidelity—at least before marriage is unnecessary. Flora’s parents, whose relationship seems both loving and tumultuous each give her different points of view. Her mother, Donna Milla played by Adriana Sevan, tells her to go have a spell cast on Manuelo and that marriage, for a woman, is no bed of roses. Her father, Don Fermin played by Gary Perez threatens to kill Manuelo. Instead they send her off to visit her cousin Petra (Lucia Brawley) who is much more modern than the convent-educated Flora. Petra dreams of leaving Puerto Rico for America. Into their lives comes Eusebio (Joe Minoso), a member of the national guard. Flora and Eusebio quickly fall in love and right after the wedding, despite Flora’s reservations and her parents dismay, go off to America.
The second act is in 1992 in the home of Flora (now played by Adriana Sevan) and Eusebio (now played by Gary Perez.) Their marriage has been fruitful but their children and grandchildren are spread out all over the United States. Eusebio has had a double leg amputation due to diabetes and is confined to bed and the ministrations of his wife, Flora. She is also involved in the local church where she has become a marriage counselor so into their home come Oskar (played by Joe Minoso) and Monica (Lucia Brawley).
The vision of the love and concern Eusebio and Flora share is an important example for Oskar and Monica who are about to get married. However, once they leave, there’s a slight upheaval that adds another dimension to the obligations of love. Eusebio has a dream that an angel has come to him and informed him that in a couple of days he will die. Flora is skeptical but he requires her to bring in a priest (Felix Solis) to administer last rites. A comical scene ensues that puts great tension on the marriage as Eusebio gives his confession.
Eusebio does not die but as a result of this scene, he has a stroke that incapacitates him even more than the amputations. It is the love that Eusebio and Flora share and the concern they have for each other that is going to leave you feeling warm when you leave the theater.
Adding to the feeling of this play is the music composed by Gustavo Leone. Boleros are described in the program as a danceable love song with lyrics about sweet or lost loves and roots in Spanish 18th-century dances.
The entire cast develops the roles they are given well and with the sets catapult you into the time and place of each act. At the end, it wouldn’t be surprising if you had a damp eye.
Boleros for the Disenchanted is at the Yale Repertory Theater, 1120 Chapel St., in New Haven through May 17. For tickets call the YRT box office at 432-1234.
This review appeared in Shore Publications.