note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
Melinda Lopez' new play "The Order of Things" (presented by CentaStage at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre) fairly pulses with fascinating relationships. The Cuban family at the heart of the play is divided when one sister flees to the States with her husband and unborn child, and the other stays behind.
Lopez focuses the play on that Cuban-American child, herself now a mother of an eight year old. This modern Everywoman worries about the failing health of her mother, about the precocious behavior of her daughter and, in the course of the play, why her mother has had no contact with her aunt in a decade.
Even if it sounds that way, "The Order of Things" is not a kitchen sink drama. Lopez examines vital life issues, like obsession, desperation, and identity...and like Tom Stoppard, she works in historical figures, like mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci (12th century author of the Fibonacci sequence) and Fidel Castro (20th century author of the revolution) ---- and she works them in seamlessly.
Castro's visit is whimsical and, in the midst of grave family distress, most welcome. The mathematics arrive via the character of the grandfather, who imparts his love of theory and numbers to his eager granddaughter. Her mastery of a sequence of very high totals is simply delightful. Each small particle of Lopez' play ricochets through the drama and resonates when you least expect it.
Ellen Groves' direction zips along, partly due to Susan Zeeman Rogers' ingenious three-sets-in-one, where little time is wasted for scene changes. Two strong characterizations frame the play: Nancy E. Carroll as the sister who does not feel truly at home in the U.S., and Genie Montalvo as the fiercely loyal Cuban sister. Mort Kaplan gives the grandfather a sea of patience to draw upon. His scenes with his adoring granddaughter (Eliza Fichter) will melt your hearth, (Fichter, at age ten, is carving out a career playing very smart little girls.) Andrea Kooharian (in Kristen Loeffler's clever costumes) plays the stressed daughter with quiet dignity. Juan Luis Acevedo portrays the desperate Cuban son with fire and passion. John Porrell is always n target, especially his wry dictator cameo. Dean O'Donnell's projections give the production polish, and Yael Lubetsky's soft light for the hospital scenes, especially for the hospital soliloquies, add a serenity to the severity of everything.