Theater Review: ANNA IN THE TROPICS (Open Fist Theatre Company in Los Angeles)

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by Tony Frankel on June 4, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles

HAS TOLSTOY EVER BEEN SO HOT?

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Anna in the Tropics, Nilo Cruz created the role of striking, velvet-voiced, Cuban Lothario Juan Julian, a lector who is hired to read books to the workers in a 1929 Tampa cigar factory — it alleviates tedium, inadvertently educates them, and, in this case, causes a few women to blossom (cerebrally and otherwise). The conflict arises when the men find themselves threatened by the littérateur, what with the ideals expressed when Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is read aloud. A gorgeous oral artist can be dangerous once the temperature rises.

Cruz’s poetic dialogue matches the timelessness of literature itself and wafts through your senses like a balmy breeze, even as this decent production at Atwater Village isn’t as steamy and profound as it could have been. While the casting and direction by Jon Lawrence Rivera isn’t always accurate for Open Fist Theatre Company, we definitely experience some sultry and stirring moments that make up for those which are overwrought or misguided or lacking tension or power or specificity. Overall, you’ll be glad you saw this beautiful work.

photos by Darrett Sanders

Anna in the Tropics
Open Fist Theatre Company
Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave. in Atwater Village
Fri at 8 (June 7 & 21); Sat at 8; Sun at 4; Mon at 8
ends on June 9, 2019 EXTENDED to June 22, 2019
for tickets, call 323.882.6912 or visit Open Fist

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