el Huracan – Review by Tom Nissley

An exciting production of this world premiere by Charise Castro Smith leads the audience through four generations of a family who came to Miami from Cuba around 1959. In Havana, Valeria had been a prominent stage magician, pulling doves from the air or a bundle of colorful silks, giving them to her handsome assistant (and husband) to place in a glass cage, making the whole cage disappear in a flash of its silk shawl covering. They had routinely played on the stage of the famed Tropicana, taking their infant daughter with them to sleep under a dressing room table while they performed magic before a glittering international audience.

When we meet Valeria (Adriana Sevahn Nichols) she is reconstructing the memory of those grand days within a mind shattered by Alzheimer’s Disease, while her daughter Ximena (Maria-Christina Olivares) and granddaughter Miranda (Irene Sofia Lucio) are packing to take her a few miles inland to escape Hurricane Andrew. Miranda is in college in Boston. She has flown down to help, but gets cold pricklies from her mother in response, and their stress is compounded because Valeria keeps a vague smile on her face but says nothing and is inclined to wander.

They make the trip to Ximena’s house and are helped by a neighbor, Fernando (Arturo Soria), to board up the windows and take refuge during the squall. Valeria has been reminded by the sound of the winds of a younger sister who was drowned in high seas long ago.

When Ximena agrees to have a nap, Miranda and Fernando help Valeria to nap, too. They use an old family recipe for calming the nerves (Rum), and after a few minutes of sharing, the two young people sneak into another room for some alone time in bed. But sadly, the old and confused Valeria wakes up and imagines that she should follow the persons she sees in her mind out into the storm, which is raging violently. Of course, she is never seen again.

Years have passed. Miranda’s letters to Ximena have always been angrily returned to sender and Ximena does not know that she is a grandmother. Miranda has come, unbidden, to help her mother sort through the grand mess of still another hurricane, that flooded her home and destroyed many possessions. Her daughter, Val (Jennifer Paredes), is helping to muddle through the mess, with a young cousin, Theo (Arturo Soria) who has recently come from Cuba to Miami. Now it is Ximena who has the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. But the generations of Cuban women have pieced together the untold story of their famous grandmother Magician. Ximena has remembered being a little girl sometimes watching her mother’s Magic Show from the wings at the Tropicana. Even as Ximena wanders away into her own solitude, a circle of awareness pulls her family system into focus once again.

The play is co-produced by the SOL Project – whose purpose is to elevate awareness and opportunities for Latinx playwrights. In this case the actors were all Latinx as well, and in a clever twist, all the necessary announcements about exits and cell phones were first spoken in Spanish, and then repeated in English to the audience. During the play, the script was well organized to provide both Spanish and English phrases is sync with each other. Theo, for instance, attempts an English phrase and Val provides the Spanish. Or when Valeria is remembering her first romance with Alonso (Jonathan Nichols) they together repeat a poem in Spanish and English, keeping the audience included in her dream.

The set (Gerardo Diaz Sanchez) is a carefully designed circular platform surrounded by several background curtains which show beautifully designed projections (Yaara Bar), sometimes of waves splashing, perhaps of Alicia swimming, or of the intensity of the hurricane – sure to receive a nomination for an award. Megumi Katayama’s Sound Design and Nic Vincent’s Lighting were very much in sync with them. The costumes (Heron Kaputkin) were also significant, representing the glamor of the Magic Show and the progress through the generations represented in the play. Several other credits that seemed worth mentioning were attributed to the Sordelets (Fight Directors) and Christopher Rose (the Magic Designer), who put together the grand illusions that were used in the opening scenes.

Laurie Woolery directed the production with creativity and sensitivity. The work is a major success, and it was a thrill to experience it in this beautiful production.

Tickets and Information are available at www.yalerep.org or by calling 203-432- 1234.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre October 5