Tolstoy meets ‘Florida Man’ in ‘Anna in the Tropics’ – People’s World

The cast of “Anna in the Tropics.” / Craig Schwartz

PASADENA, Calif. — What A Noise Within does is irony Anna in the Tropics open, as a result, while Russia is making the first news. This is because the titular Anna is a reference to the eponymous Anna Karenina in Count Leo Tolstoy’s famous 1878 Russian novel. But in this Pulitzer Prize-winning play, playwright Nilo Cruz transforms Tolstoy’s tale of infidelity, moving from Moscow and St. .

There, Cuban transplants (like Mantanzas-born Cruz, whose family moved to Miami’s Little Havana in the 1970s) established an old-style cigar factory. To break the monotony of long working days, often in the heat, they quietly rented handmade cigars, “fliers” were hired to read books to the hardworking proletarians. As Pacific opens, a new lector, Juan Julian (Jason Manuel Olazabal) arrives in Tampa and the first story he chooses is to comfort the cigar grinders with the other one. Anna Karenina.

While this play opens with some lighter moments, Cruz cleverly weaves details and themes from Tolstoy’s classic into his second play. In particular, Conchita (the always serious Tania Verafield, provocatively smoking a stogie on the cover of the playbill), who has been betrayed by her cheating husband Palomo (Matias Ponce), when love the dapper lector. Conchita, of course, mirrors Tolstoy’s title character, while Juan’s Olazabal presents a more literate version of Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky, the knight-errant knight with whom Anna has sex.

Anna in the Tropics It’s a huge ensemble piece, and Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx directs his seven thespians expertly. It is difficult to understand any of the characters as a protagonist per se, but like Conchita like Karenina, the honorable Verafield, who is an LA stage stalwart, can be very close to the leading character. In addition to appearing in several ANW roles, the talented Tania starred in the unforgettable Lizzie Lightning in For the Love of (or, Roller Derby Play).

Conchita’s mother is Ofelia, Rose Portillo – who originated the role of Della in Zoot Appeal and voice acting in the Academy Award-winning animated feature Encanto—have some scene-stealing moments. Portillo’s theater students at Pomona College are very lucky to have such a talented teacher.

Tropics’ Great comic relief is provided by Katie Rodriguez as Marela, Ofelia’s teenage daughter (Rodriguez, who has appeared in several ANW projects, Ophelia appears in the group’s group. Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are dead). With his elocution, Olazabal, whose stage credits include a Broadway performance of Anna in the Tropics, cuts a smart living, adds a touch of culture to the ordinary world of factory work. Now just after the creation of chats but long before our age of media saturation with Tik Tok and other forms of social media, the pre-rap lector style of the “Prophetic” art is beautiful if an arcane artifact of a bygone world.

This “throwback” is the second Juan Julian of Olazabal against Cheché (Gabriel Bonilla, whose credits include HBO’s Westworld), who seeks, against much opposition, to renovate his family’s cigarmaking factory. His attempts at mechanization greatly impressed Cheché. Quality, speed, and above all, wealth is more important to this capitalist than craftsmanship, if time is running out, cigar rolling, and Cheché in a class with Juan, who showed the beauty and ancient writing of the Earth. (I wonder if Cruz, whose family fled Castro’s Cuba, is referring to Che Guevara through his so-called Cheché, the brave newcomer against the order of the Old World? )

It is worth mentioning that, like the playwright and the Cuban people of the theater, most if not all of the actors are Hispanic; Verafield, for example, has part-Mexican ancestry. Muñoz-Proulx is ANW’s Director of Cultural Programming and on the Latinx Theater Commons Advisory Committee. It is also appropriate for a word at a time when Russia was subjected to such a disaster, this page from Tolstoy recalls another side of Russian history and culture, literature and with theater by Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Pushkin, Gorky, Chekhov. , Mayakovsky, Yevtushenko, et al.

One must remember that the disastrous wars were not good for the Russian leaders: The Russo-Japanese War created the 1905 Revolution and put limits on the czarist rule, while Russia’s participation in World War I led in the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II. Kerensky in 1917. In our own time, the Soviet disaster in Afghanistan was a major factor in the collapse of the USSR. But like this game is about Anna Karenina Tolstoy’s other major work, however, War and PeaceI will leave my thoughts on it.

Don’t be late during the break or you will miss a scene of love between Conchita and Juan. Although the actors are fully clothed, this is not a play for children, so leave the kids at home. But Pacific It is a play for serious actors who take stage and page seriously and enjoy a night (or matinee) outside the theater, especially when presented by ANW, which is one of the Los Angeles’ highest and best theater company.

A Noise Within brings Anna to the Tropics on Thursday. through Sat. at 8:00 pm, with 2:00 pm matinees on Saturdays. and the Sun. through April 17, at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107. For information and tickets:; (626) 356-3121. Free parking is available in the adjacent garage. Covid documents and photos are reviewed. The trailer can be seen here.


Ed Rampell


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