Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
King Lear, Shakespeare
Shakespeare was very well aware of how weather can heighten the drama on the stage. There is reference to weather in virtually all of his plays, and in many, like King Lear, The Tempest, and Macbeth, the weather is truly a character on the stage itself.
When I saw the ads for , El Huracán, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a play about a bad bit of weather, especially as we were watching a hurricane approach and devastate Mexico Beach, Florida. But while Shakespeare uses weather as a device to push the drama into a great height, the hurricane in El Huracán barely blew a gale. It was referenced, it was prepared for; heck, it was the TITLE! But there was no running for cover, no huddling in the basement, no terrified characters. In fact, the very real Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992 was the least animated part of the show.
We begin in the 1950s, as an elegant pair of magicians produce live doves out of scarves, lose whole people in boxes, and dazzle us with showmanship, while Frank Sinatra sings Come Fly with Me. The beautiful woman in a cobalt blue halter dress, we soon see, is now an old woman, living with her daughter in Miami, with no memory of what she did five minutes ago. Alzheimer’s has captured her and her overworked, overwrought, but highly capable daughter prepares for the hurricane with the help of HER daughter, and decides to take a nap. What happens next, is tragedy.
A wonderful cast, a brilliant set, and a script that is from time to time funny, even as it deals with sickness, loss, and the legacy of forgiveness; El Huracán is one of the most enjoyable offerings I have seen at the Rep over the last few years.
Director Laurie Woolery, who directed Imogen Says Nothing at the Rep, in 2017, beautifully tells this story of mothers and daughters, and sisters, and guilt, and the quiet triumphs that dot our lives. Ms. Woolery is a founding member of The Sol Project, which is a theatre initiative that strives to “amplify the voices of Latinx playwrights and build artistic homes for artists of color in New York City and beyond.” The Sol Project produced the play in collaboration with the Rep. I hope they collaborate often.
Irene Sofia Lucio, who played the young magician Valeria, as well as her granddaughter, Miranda in 1992 and beyond is a graduate of Yale School of Drama, Ms. Lucio was affecting as Miranda, as we watched the mental and physical ways in which guilt has changed her from a confident, young Harvard student, to a defeated woman. Adriana Sevahn Nichols as Valeria was a wonderful abuela, quietly finding her way through what must be a very beautiful world. Her face is childlike as she discovers things that bring back lovely memories. Her real life husband Jonathan Nichols as Alonso MAY have been acting, but I just think he believed every word he said. Maria-Christia Oliveras as the middle generational Ximena was poignant as the stiffed-lipped woman in charge of the whole world of her family, who is both angry and sorry that she napped. The very aquatic Jennifer Paredes, who plays Alicia and Val is delightful, although I would like to have seen a bigger difference between the two women she played. Arturo Soria, who is a third year M.F.A. candidate at Yale School of Drama was Young Alonso, Fernando, and Theo, and was terrific in each, quite separate characters. He is a lot of fun. I will enjoy watching his career.
Go see this world premiere. This is the best play I have seen here since INDECENT.