Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Order of Things"

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"The Order of Things"

by Melinda Lopez
Directed by Ellen Groves

Set Design by Susan Zeeman Rogers
Costume Design by Kristin Loeffler
Lighting Design by Yael Lubetzky
Projections by Dean O'Donnell
Wigs and Hair by Rachel Padula
Stage Manager Adele Traub

Dolores..................Nancy E. Carroll
Luz.........................Genie Montalvo
Teresa.................Andrea Kooharian
Marta...........................Eliza Fichter
Miguel..............Mordecai S. Kaplan
Del......................Juan Luis Acevedo
Doctor/Bearded Man......John Porell

Melinda Lopez' "The Order of Things" is a memory play, made more with hints and wisps and poetry than dramatic confrontations. Her characters are flamboyantly reticent, as befits their Cuban temperament. At the center are two sisters, one who left Cuba and one who stayed --- both of whom feel they have lost their beautiful home. Moody lights by Yael Lubetzky and seaside sounds by Benjamin Emerson float this reverie back and forth in space and in time as the playwright explores these two different, parallel lives..

Dolores (Nancy E. Carroll) in Miami, dying of breast cancer, reflects on her life-long homelessness. Luz (Genie Montalvo) in Havana compromises with the busybody community leaders, and watches her son (Juan Luis Acevedo) slip from cleaning toilets to prostitution at the new tourist hotels, in search of dollars. Her dream of a rebirth of Cuba dies hard, and it is symbolized by an apartment so small mother and son must take turns sleeping in the one narrow bed.

For the expatriates however there is a typically cluttered American kitchen, with vcr and microwave --- and an eight year old granddaughter (Eliza Fichter). Dolores left Cuba newly pregnant, and now her daughter Teresa (Andrea Kooharian) supports her family as a (fed ex) messenger. Her husband Miguel (Mordecai S. Kaplan) is a quiet engineer and mathematician resigned to enduring things he cannot change.

Lopez has brought this large cast to life, but doesn't coalesce their story around any one common theme. The story of Luz --- spying on her neighbors about illicit packets from abroad yet taking a tax of cosmetics not to report them --- contrasts with Dolores' life --- better than hers yet poorer than most people's --- in exile. However the contrasts are in subtext rather than surface. Also, both Teresa and her little girl have bursts of centerstage action that illuminate themselves more than any common theme. Marta calmly attempts to eat corn-flakes mixed with Clorox in order to understand her grandmother's internal pains; Teresa attempts to raise a Santoro orisha, but instead of Shango gets a bearded, cigar-smoking Castro like-a-look (John Porell) demanding fifty bucks for a miracle.

This is a woman's play, about women's worlds, and the men are either distant or secretive, or caricatures. Kaplain's Miguel holds fast to mathematics when trying to explain the infinity of creation, and is proud when Marta at only eight can recognize a Fibonnacci-sequence of numbers. Acevedo's Del puts on a happy face for his mother but tries to hide from her his bitter shame. Porell plays a cartoon-y American doctor stupidly incapable of dealing with his Latino patient nor the seriousness of her case.

At play's end, the sisters are united --- but only in an intensive-care unit where nothing is resolved. Each character has had a moment to become vibrantly human, but these are all just beginnings. "The Order of Things" is, perhaps, a sketch for a novel --- the first in what may be a long line of plays in which Melinda Lopez will give each of her characters room to explore their individualities to the fullest.


"The Order of Things" (till 21 May)
Playwrights' Theatre, 949 Huntington Avenue, BOSTON
1(617) 536-5981

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide