If you didn’t get an invite to the dress rehearsal, or attend Friday night’s premiere of the Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s production of “Anna in the Tropics,” then you must put this play on your list of events to attend these upcoming weekends.
Running Friday & Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons now until May 14th at the EXPO Backroom Theatre in Bixby Knolls, the play "Anna in the Tropics" is intriguing for many reasons. The most relevant of those is the plot of Cuban immigrants living and working in a cigar-making factory in Florida, in the 1920’s.
I have been attending theatre productions for many years now, and it occurred to me that I had never seen a play based solely around Latin Americans. That is shameful, but "Anna in the Tropics" was a rewarding pleasure.
The Pulitzer-Prize winning story is written by Nilo Cruz, but directed by LB Shakespeare Company Co-Artistic Director, Denis McCourt.
McCourt did an incredible job with casting, as the main actors not only resembled a family, but acted like one-on stage and off. I got a chance to chat and sit-in during their warm-up before a dress rehearsal performance Thursday night, and the cast’s connection and excitement was truly noteworthy.
The seven actors joked and commented on their range of Latin American nationalities, with only one members actually being Cuban, and half at that.
“Most of our characters are family, and we (as actors) cover a range of Latin American cultures. But, we have came to the conclusion that we are all so much the same,” said Andrea Ramirex-Martinez, who plays “Marela” in the story.
“And that’s the great thing about this play. Because it is based on family, it relates to everyone,” she seconded.
The story revolves around a theme of control in the workplace and family/martial drama, but watching such common themes acted out in a Latino fashion was very enjoyable. From the gorgeous accents to the Cubano music playing in the background, the setting, plot and acting was right on point.
The women spoke and used body language with passion and dramatics, and the men were full of Latin heat. The moments of stillness throughout the play as an added dramatic were also appealing, as it really highlighted the beauty of the story and characters.
Within the family drama, the audience also learns of the beautiful tradition Cuban immigrants working in cigar factories brought from their homeland to the U.S.; the use of an “el lector.” The “el lector” is a Cuban male, historically known to be well-dressed and well-spoken, who is hired by the factory to read novels to the workers as they roll the cigars.
And as you can imagine, this lector is known to be impressive. So, aside from informing, organizing and entertaining the workers, the lector in this story also stirs things up. Could it be his romantic antics, educated mind or simply his good looks that causes an upset in the factory?
You’ll have to attend the play to find out, and I certainly recommend you do. I found everything to be lovely about the performance and although family members fought,the beauty of the Latin American culture and family love is what really shined through.
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EXPO Backroom Theatre
4321 Atlantic Ave. Long Beach, CA 90807
Buy tickets now at www.lbshakespeare.org or call 562-997-1494