Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Boleros for The Disenchanted"

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note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Larry Stark

"Boleros for The Disenchanted"

by Jose Rivera
Directed by Chay Yew

Scenic Design by Alexander Dodge
Lighting Design by Paul Whitaker
Costume Design by Anita Yavich
Casting by Alaine Alldaffer
Music Composed & Sound Design by Fabian Obispo
Production Stage Manager Lori M. Doyle
Stage Manager Carole Morrone

Flora / Eve.......................Flora Diaz
Donna Milla / Old Flora.....Socorro Santiago
Don Fermin / Old Eusebio.......Jaime Tirelli
Manuelo / Priests.......Juan Javier Cardenas
Petra / Monica......Maria-Christina Oliveras
Eusebio / Oskar................Elliot Villar

From the point of view of God, nobody's perfect. In Jose Rivera's play, which documents the beginning and then the end of a 50-year marriage, a Puerto Rican pair plus their family demonstrate their jangling, passionate self-contradictions as well as the fact that capricious choices and trusts have surprisingly unpredictable consequences. The young lovers of act one get played, in act two, by the same actors that played the woman's parents. The same problem of trust and infidelity arises in both acts --- but life experience dictates different answers. "Boleros for The Disenchanted" raises a curtain to let the audience peek at rock-solidly held opinions totally upended --- and the bed-rock of love that makes everything possible.

The playwright sets hard and fast rules, then breaks every one of them. (America is hell on earth; let's go there! I will love only you forever; I've been unfaithful.) It's as though he's set out to demonstrate that the myth of the hot-blooded Latin temperament is really true after all. And since he shows little of the thinking that changes minds, these abrupt shifts and compromises are seen only from the outside. Eventually, the wildly tropic foliage and peripatetic palm-trees in Alexander Dodge's ingenius set become a symbol of this exotic cauldron of emotions.

This is young Flora's story. In Act One (1953) she (Flora Diaz)is a dogmatic virgin willing to wait two more years to marry (at 25!) a self-confessed "real man" (Juan Javier Cardenas) who insists sex and love are different. But she settles suddenly for the honorable Eusebio (Elliot Villar), whom even her father (Jaime Tirelli) approves. In Act Two (1992) she (now Socorro Santiago), after nine children, councils the young (Maria-Christina Oliveras & Juan Javier Cardenas) on the realities rather than romanticism of marriage --- while finally forgiving her now invalid "real man" husband (Jaime Tirelli) of long-ago lapses. And the saga ends with both "young" lovers, eschewing mutual suicide, comfortably in bed together.

In keeping with the turnabouts of story, Alexander Dodge's set revolves to change an exterior patio in Miraflores, P.C., into an interior bed/living-room in Daleville, Alabama. The cast shows both change and continuity in playing double-roles --- in each act, Flora reaches a strident screech whenever ultimately defending a bedrock-belief --- and the result is a charming, even sweet glimpse into Puerto Rican society and temperament, though a glimpse, always, from the outside.

"Boleros for The Disenchanted" (10 October - 15 November)
Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 266-0800

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide