Posted by Francis Henares
From March 4 to 9 in the Black Box Theater, the college's Theater department presented the season's first major production, "Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams."
Written by Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz in 2001, "Hortensia" tells the story of two siblings who return to Cuba after living in the U.S. for more than three decades.
Luca, played by Zac Uslianer '14, and Luciana, played by Julie Dietz '11, were products of "Operation Peter Pan" in which thousands of Cuban children were sent to the U.S. for protection against the tense and volatile atmosphere of the Cold War.
Luca and Luciana return with the hopes of resolving their turbulent pasts, and in the process, meet a range of characters that expose them to the different facets of Cuban culture.
The play itself, directed by Ilanna Saltzman '11, was put together entirely by students. It is one of two major productions for the spring 2011 Black Box Seminar. It had a successful run with sold-out performances on all six days.
One of the highlights of the production was the set, designed by Andy Nice '11, which evoked a sense of rustic colonial charm that proved to be a pleasing, yet unobtrusive backdrop to the production.
A careful attention to detail was evident, from the louvered windows to the peculiar cupboard that housed Hortensia's innumerable collection of "miracles."
The layout of the small theater was also successful in bringing the audience closer to the action, with rows of seating between the two sides of the stage.
The seven-person cast was equally impressive, effectively communicating feelings of uncertainty, longing and desire that are so prevalent in the play.
Zazie Beetz '13, takes on the titular character of Hortensia, a passionate and spiritual woman who longs for the world to experience her "museum of dreams" – a communist-friendly euphemism for the miraculous trinkets she collects.
Beetz effortlessly portrayed the role of the quintessential Cuban mother – loving, deeply religious and uncompromising to anyone that threatens her authority.
At Hortensia's side are her two sons, Samuel and Basilio, played by Billy Berger-Bailey '13 and Brandon O'Sullivan '11, respectively.
Their strong performances as mischievous adolescents provided much of the humor in the play, and were a welcome respite from the melancholy narratives of Luciana.
Theater Julie Dietz '11 was expectedly compelling as Luciana, possessing a voice that powerfully delivered the sentiments of a character struggling to grapple with events of her past.
Likewise, newcomer Zac Uslianer '14 effectively embodied Luca, a brother trying to reach out to his distant sister, while desperately attempting to experience the Cuba that was taken away from him at such a young age.
Not to be forgotten are Alex Greaves '12 and Chelsea Niven '11 who played a variety of characters, but were particularly impressive as General Viamonte and Delita, respectively.
In playing General Viamonte, Greaves portrayed a callous Cuban loyalist who scoffs at the sight of Hortensia's miracles and will stop at nothing to suppress and eliminate anti-Communist ideals.
Delita, on the other hand, is a free-spirited Havana girl seduces Luca, giving us a glimpse of the liberal youth that exist alongside hardliners like Viamonte.
"Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams" is a powerful and poignant production that successfully showcases the ability of both the cast and crew involved.
Its ultimate message of reconciliation as a means to overcome anguish was beautifully conveyed, and it was clear that this message resonated deeply with the audience long after the play's conclusion.