Cuban playwright Nilo Cruz’s story about a cigar rolling family in Tampa, Florida – ANNA IN THE TROPICS – is now performing at the Atwater Village Theater, through June 8.
Because working at a cigar factory could be tedious and repetitive, it had been the tradition to hire a lector (reader) to read stories and news that’d keep the workers entertained. Such lectors became an integral part of the operation and their readings, even their opinions, shaped the beliefs and the emotions of the workers. In ANNA IN THE TROPICS, lector Juan Julian chooses to read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, a Russian story about love and adultery that ends up stirring dormant passions in the oidores (listeners).
At the Atwater Village Theater, the Open Fist Theatre Company is presenting an ANNA IN THE TROPICS that is entertaining and faithful to Nilo Cruz’s work. It is directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, and it has a cast of seven talented actors, including Costa Rican-American Byron Quiros as “Juan Julian,” and Mexico’s Antonio Jaramillo (whom you may already know from FX’s Mayans MC), as quite the convincing “Cheche.”
This production of ANNA IN THE TROPICS is thoroughly enjoyable, with actors that work hard to give you the flavors and the sounds of the island (although their Cuban accents do come in and out periodically). This is a passionate play with a couple of erotic scenes. It is not a bad thing at all to see Quiros shirtless, but what he does with “Conchita” (played by Presciliana Esparolini) is probably not what you’ll want your young kids to see just yet. Also, know that a real cigar is lit during the performance, which turns out to be a real temptation for some of us, but may become a health concern to others.
The play is presented in two acts, with an intermission that may be longer than you’re used to, due to the bathroom line. The theater has only two restrooms and it takes a while for everyone to take a turn. I tell you this so that you’ll take any possible precautions, or at least be ready to be patient.
ANNA IN THE TROPICS is a great play. It is the story that got Cruz his 2003 Pulitzer Prize and put him in the limelight. It’s nicely delivered at the Open Fist Company, and I’m sure that you will enjoy it.
Performances are Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, through June 8. Advanced tickets for Saturdays and Sundays are $25 / $30 at the door. Monday advanced tickets are $20 / $25 at the door. Purchase and find more information here.
The Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles CA 90039.