Winner of the 2003 Pulitizer Prize for Drama. This lush romantic drama depicts a family of cigar makers whose loves and lives are played out against the backdrop of America in the midst of the Depression. Set in Ybor City (Tampa) in 1930, Cruz imagines the catalytic effect the arrival of a new "lector" (who reads Tolstoy's Anna Karenina to the workers as they toil in the cigar factory) has on a Cuban-American family. Cruz celebrates the search for identity in a new land.
When Juan Julian, a new lector, arrives at the tobacco shop, lives will inexorably be changed as he navigates through the prose of Anna Karenina for the edification of the cigar rollers. Set in Florida in 1929, the characters battle each other and themselves about the changing times as they confront technology, equality, money and love, reflected in the passages read by Julian. Though provocative and provoking in its suggestions and themes, this performance doesn't have much to beyond that. Jimmy Smits's performance peaks with his charged passages from Tolstoy's novel, but throughout the rest of the play his performance proves less than stellar. Some memorable performances include Winston Rocha as Santiago and Onahoua Rodriguez as Marela, but overall, the building tension in the short play feels forced and the performers seem to know this. L.A. Theatre Works, perhaps recognizing the brevity of the performance of this surprise Pulitzer Prize winner, provides an interview with Jimmy Smits to round out the production. The interview provides some insight to the decisions and the motivations of the cast as well as the director and writer.
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Theatre Communications Group
August 31, 2003
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