Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
I am an advocate of colorblind casting, but some plays seem to argue against this practice, their characters being so culturally specific that it becomes an uphill struggle for those outside the culture to properly portray them. This is the case in Anna in the Tropics and Manatee Players' cast proves the point. Standouts in the seven-member ensemble cast are Gabriel Vicente as Juan Julian, the lector who reads "Anna Karenina" to the workers; David Yamin as Cheche, half brother to factory owner Santiago; Martha A. Lopez as Ofelia, Santiago's wife; and Ana Maria Larson. Others work hard to give their characters honesty, but roots in Hispanic culture pays huge dividends in this play.
I have seen director Preston Boyd's work on many area stages, most notably at the sadly lost Starlite Players. Because of the lack of strong cultural connection, the directing is capable but not his best. He paces the show well, keeping the action moving steadily forward, and his staging is theatrical. All of this is presented on a richly detailed set by Ralph Nurmela which could proudly sit on the stage of many of the areas professional theaters. Costumes by Georgina Willmott are fine for the men, adequate for the women until late in the second act when they get dressed in their finery. Lighting by Patrick Bedell and sound design by Todd Olson contribute to the production.
The community partner for Anna in the Tropics is UnidosNow, an organization that advocates the importance of education with high school and now younger children.
Anna in the Tropics is a delicate play, very culturally specific. I am thrilled that Manatee Players has brought it to this area, with its large Hispanic/Latino population. I hope they will come out to see it.
Manatee Players presents Anna in the Tropics at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts through October 29, 2017, at 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton FL; 941-748-0111, manateeplayers.com.
Cast: Juan Julian: Gabriel Vicente