New Nilo Cruz Play Makes its World Premiere in Coral Gables
Passion, poetry and politics take center stage in The Color of Desire by Nilo Cruz, now making its world premiere at Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables.In The Color of Desire, Cruz, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Anna in the Tropics, evokes a pivotal moment in Cuba’s history. It’s autumn 1960, and the ramifications of Castro’s recent revolution have not yet been fully experienced. The story follows Belen, (Hannia Guillen), a young actress who lives with her protective aunts, (the marvelous Isabel Morena and Teresa Maria Rojas) and works with them as a costumer in the theatre’s basement.
Belen falls in love with Preston (strappingly sexy Jim Ballard) a wealthy American whose business is threatened by Cuba’s new regime. Preston courts Belen, not because he is in love with her, but because he wants her to help him recapture a tempestuous love affair he once had with a woman to whom Belen bears a striking resemblance.
What follows is a sultry story about sacrificing the present and future in order to reclaim the past. While the unique love story and the political backdrop seem too separate in the first act, the two mesh in the second, lending urgency and poignancy to one another.
The Color of Desire lags when attention is drawn from Belen’s aunts, whose bickering banter lends a humorous touch, and the story of Belan and Preston, to ex-pat couple Caroline (Barbara Sloan) and Oscar (Michael Serratore). As luminous as Sloan is and as funny as Serratore is, they detract from the real story. These characters deserve their own play, but they don’t work as second fiddles here.
Cruz so beautifully creates the world of his characters that he can get away with lines that from the pens of lesser playwrights would just be cheesy. When Preston says to Belen “What does your pain taste like?” you don’t groan over its absurdity, you hope that one day someone asks you that same question. The final scene may not be what you expect, or even what you want, but it works beautifully, and is the most haunting scene of the play.
Guillen shines as Belen. In the course of two hours, she transforms from an ebullient innocent to a wanton, bitter woman. That transformation is illustrated by Ellis Tillman’s sumptuous costume design.
But the reason to see The Color of Desire is the play itself. Few playwrights are able to integrate poetry into dialogue, but Cruz is a master. Don’t miss this world premiere production.
The Color of Desire runs through November 7 at Actors’ Playhouse, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. For tickets and more information, call 305-444-9293 or visit ActorsPlayhouse.org.