Each Thurs.-Sat. through March 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Sun. March 18 at 2 p.m.
701 East Bay St. (The Cigar Factory)
723-4444 or puretheatre.org
Anibal de la Luna (Rodney Rogers) is a lonely transplant from New York who works as a baggage handler at LAX. Driving home one night, he stops to pick up a hitchhiker who's drenched from the night's torrential rain during Los Angeles' "storm of the century." The hitcher is a beautiful young woman who claims to be 54 years old and to have been pregnant for two years.
Before she makes these admissions, Celestina del Sol (Sharon Graci) drops other hints that she's not exactly normal. Anibal becomes enchanted with her as quickly as he is intrigued by her story, which is, frankly, hard for him to believe. Neither her chronology, nor her recollection of her parents, or how she got to L.A., or her account of her baby's father make any sense.
These celestial bodies are, it seems, destined to meet -- to collide and alter the very laws of the universe.
In PURE Theatre's glowing production of Jose Rivera's Cloud Tectonics, May Adrales' direction creatively emphasizes this thought, that of separate bodies -- each being a speck in the universe, attracting, reacting, altering properties, and then dividing again. She's balanced the warmest of human emotions with an abstract, wondrous theatricalism, the result is magical.
Shortly after their wet arrival at Anibal's house, his brother Nelson (Matt Bivins) appears, on leave from the military and immediately drawn to Celestina. Nelson's promise to return for Celestina in two years throws things more out of whack than Celestina does, disrupting the bonding of two beings and a new way of time.
Large-scale incidents, such as war and natural disasters, all play a large role in the play. Anibal's first lengthy monologue speaks of the destructiveness of the City of Angels, how it kills its inhabitants in the "mass destruction" of natural disasters. The apocalyptic undertones throughout the play -- through topics like those along with death, absent loved ones, and even soulless corporations -- leave one understanding both Anibal's desire to connect with Celestina and how he and his brother could both easily fall for someone who is so disconnected from the way the world really works, from its constraints, from the mortal coil that binds us all.
With its lyrical, almost poetic passages, meandering monologues, and fantasy-driven narrative, Rivera's play evokes the literary works of his mentor Gabriel García Márquez. The strangeness of the situation is emphasized by the physical space PURE's production inhabits. There are only two set pieces here (a pair of chairs), and the set is literally drawn on the floor by the actors before the audience's eyes, conventions which effectively place the play in an imaginary world, a dreamlike setting, keeping with the themes of absence, isolation, and loneliness. PURE's production subtracts some of the realism from the play's "magical realism," yet the move serves it well.
A lone complaint -- and it's not minor, unfortunately -- is that surely it's important that all three of Rivera's characters are Latino. Not one of PURE's cast is even passably so. Sharon Graci's accent is charming, and she carries it through quite convincingly. But neither Rogers nor Bivins convincingly portray Puerto Rican New Yorkers. You wouldn't know either is Puerto Rican if it weren't for Anibal's line "I'm Puerto Rican." Yet Latino culture (especially the emphasis on a particular kind of mythology) undoubtedly plays a part in Rivera's play, and to deny it, even unintentionally, seems to rob the play of one of its most significant levels. Their performances, however, are still moving.
Love "alters the physics around you in some way," Anibal says. Cloud Tectonics is partly an exploration of what love does to a person and the way it can change, even stop, time and the world itself. PURE's production comes very close to achieving the same thing.