Anna In The Tropics

COSTA MESA, CA -- Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama ANNA IN THE TROPICS is an intimate, poetic drama about the impact of literature and romance on a Cuban-American family in Tampa, Florida circa 1929.

The family, fairly recent transplants to the USA, own a small cigar factory which operates the old-fashioned, traditional way. Not only are the cigars made by hand but the craftsmen (and women) look forward to having a lector read to them as they work, either from the newspaper or from works of literature.

The newly arrived lector in Cruz's play is Juan Julian (Julian Acosta), a tall, elegantly clad Valentino lookalike who decides to read Anna Karenina to his captive audience, comprised of Ofelia (Karmin Marcelo), her daughters Marela (Onaboua Rodriguez) and Conchita (Adriana Sevan); Ofelia's husband Santiago (Tony Plana), her son-in-law Palomo (Jonathan Nichols); and Cheche (Geoffrey Rivas), a hot-tempered tabaquero.

Only Cheche resents the lector. Not only does he have little use for Tolstoy's romantic notions (having been cuckolded and abandoned by his wife), he sees the reader as a symbol of all that's old-fashioned and impractical about the cigar industry. He feels it should be mechanized and made more efficient and impersonal. Profits are what count, not poetry.

The clash of old and new values is made even more powerful by the impact of the lector (and Tolstoy) on the cigar-makers. Passions and sexuality are ignited, resulting in explosive and tragic confrontations. There's a lot of melodrama in ANNA, but Cruz modulates it with his lush use of language and deft exploration of character. Christine Jones' evocative set and Juliette Carrillo's sensitive direction also help make ANNA the success it is.

Through Oct. 25 at South Coast Rep, 655 Town Center Drive. Call (714) 708-555 or visit