“Anna in the Tropics” Brings The Heat at A Noise Within

theatre review

PHOTO: Craig Schwartz | South Pasadena News | The cast of Anna in the Tropics on stage at A Noise Within.

Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play gets a steamy, sultry and poetic production of “Anna in the Tropics” now on stage at A Noise Within. It’s a story of immigrants making a new life in America, in this case, Cubans in 1920’s Tampa, Florida. It’s a rich tapestry for this story to unfold. Three women dressed in white – a mother and her two daughters, wait with longing and anticipation for the arrival of a new lector for their factory.

Their family owns and operates a factory where they make hand rolled cigars and in those days, in order to break up the monotony on the factory floor, a lector would read books aloud to the workers. It’s a fading tradition but one that the mother, Ofelia, wants to hang on to. Both daughters, Conchita and Marela,  love being swept away by the stories and eagerly await the new mystery man. Ofelia’s husband, Santiago, owns the factory but has gambled away pieces of it to his half-brother Cheche, who is keen to modernize the company and is less than thrilled with a new lector because his wife ran off with the last one!

PHOTO: Craig Schwartz | South Pasadena News | Leandro Cano, Matias Ponce and Gabriel Bonilla in Anna in the Tropics on stage at A Noise Within.

The new lector, Juan Julian, has chosen to read “Anna Karenina” and before long, everyone is engaged in the story as life begins to imitate art on the factory floor. Tania Verafield plays Conchita with a hungry sensuality as she engages in a torrid affair with the romantic and charismatic Jason Manuel Olazabal as lector Juan Julian. Their scenes crackle with desire. A commanding Matias Ponce plays Conchita’s philandering husband Palomo. Leandro Cano has an air of tragedy as the patriarch Santiago, although we get glimpses of his youthful joy in the scenes where he’s creating his latest idea for a new cigar. Gabriel Bonilla pops with a dangerous energy as Cheche and Katie Rodriguez is delightful as the whimsical dreamer, Marela. And grounding the cast is a deeply gifted Rose Portillo as the tough as nails on the outside but a marshmallow inside matriarch.

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PHOTO: Craig Schwartz | South Pasadena News | Tania Verafield, Rose Portillo and Katie Rodriguez in Anna in the Tropics on stage at A Noise Within.

Jonathan Munoz-Proulx directs with sensitivity and passion, allowing us a glimpse into this long ago world. He and his cast, along with an exquisite set by Tanya Orellana has us feeling the literal heat of Tampa as well as the heat within these characters full of longing, hope and heartache.

Anna in the Tropics is currently on stage at A Noise Within through April 17, 2022. Single ticket prices for Anna in the Tropics start at $25 and are available at anoisewithin.org, by phone at 626-356-3121, and at the box office located at 3352 East Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena, Calif.