On the surface Nilo Cruz resets Tolstoy in 1920s Tampa where workers in a family-run cigar factory explore life, love, and everything with the man brought in to read to them during their rolling sessions. Director Jon Lawrence Rivera marshals a fine cast complemented by Open Fist’s traditionally strong stagecraft but the Pulitzer winning script disappoints with a bang. The women we see, two sisters, their mother, and a silent factotum are taken metaphorically by both the Lector and ‘Anna Karenina,’ his choice of reading material. The men are unsurprisingly less so. As the action unfolds, one of the sisters is taken quite literally by yon Lector while her equally unfaithful husband stews and belatedly asks for tips on how to rock her like a hurricane. The aspiring half-brother of the factory owner, having lost his own wife to another Lector, isn’t any happier with this one’s presence. It all strives to be dreamy, lyrical, mysterious, philosophical, and evocative but just plods along steadily and soapily and ends dangling in the air – one might say like a languid coruscating puff of bluish-white cigar smoke in the fading sunlight. For it is that kind of play. It may make sense to fans of the book. Others beware.
Despite all the overt references to Tolstoy all the Moscow-longing, the clash between modernism and tradition, the general inertia of the characters, and a last-act gun suggest an homage to theatre’s favorite (albeit overblown, overpraised, and overdone) Russian.
Anna in the Tropics
by Nilo Cruz
Directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera for the Open Fist Theatre Company
Running through 8 June 2019 at:
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(FREE parking in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater)
Performances on selected Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 4pm
See the website for performance dates and prices
Online ticketing: Open Fist’s secure site