“El Huracan”

Yale Repertory Theatre


“El Huracan,” Charise Castro Smith’s joyous and delightful world premiere play, is currently receiving an utterly beautiful production at Yale Repertory Theatre.  Featuring a cast of six superb (and extremely versatile) actors, this play explores the whole continuum of life and aging and does so in a lovely way.  The setting of the show is Miami, Florida and the action focus on two different hurricanes, one in 1992 and the other in a future time, August 2019, and it is about how one family does its best to weather the storms.  In addition to the main story, there are fanciful scenes of magic, and “El Huracan” oftentimes lets the past and present intermingle in highly stimulating and touching ways.  Everything comes together just gorgeously in Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of “El Huracan,” making this new play an absolute must-see.

As the play begins, the audience is treated to the sounds of Frank Sinatra singing “Come Fly with Me,” as two young people perform a series of magic tricks, in a truly vibrant scene that seems to exist from another era.  The two actors in the scene are the amazing Irene Sofia Lucio and Arturo Soria, who each also play other, radically different characters in the show, to seamless and surprising effect.  This opening scene sets the tone for “El Huracan” and the fact that the play manages to encompass several different time periods, sometimes all at once.  Thanks to the playwright and her stunning director, Laurie Woolery, “El Huracan” proceeds in a non-linear fashion that is completely convincing and thought-out just brilliantly.  Indeed, the eldest character onstage, Valeria (the astonishing Adriana Sevahn Nichols) can exist in the Florida of 1992, and yet, due to her dementia, still have visions of her sister Alicia (the entrancing Jennifer Paredes) that come from a distant time period.

What makes “El Huracan” so effective is that it is easy to follow the central story, even as “ghosts,” so to speak, wander in and out of the action.  It is possible that a conceit like this could become creepy or confusing, but everything is entirely lucid and believable in this show and this helps the playwright to tell the tale of this family in sometimes hallucinatory ways.  The main action of “El Huracan” involves three dominant women: Valeria, as the grandmother; Ximena, as the daughter, beautifully portrayed by the indomitable Maria-Christine Oliveras; and the aforementioned (and truly excellent) Irene Sofia Lucio as the granddaughter, Miranda.  The first part of the play concerns the three of them preparing for a hurricane in 1992, along with the assistance of Fernando, played by the handsome Arturo Soria, who is great playing three different roles.

Without giving too much away, things take a tragic turn in this first part of “El Huracan,” and the second half fast-forwards twenty-seven years, to August 2019, and examines, quite eloquently, how the members of this central family have progressed, this time in the aftermath of a hurricane.  This play is most definitely female-dominated, but the young Arturo Soria certainly makes his mark in the show, and there is another male performer, the elegant and dashing Jonathan Nichols, who takes on the character of Valeria’s deceased husband, Alonso, who appears in dream-like sequences that exist in the periphery of the story.

In addition to the spectacular performances she has elicited from her actors, director Laurie Woolery also works smashingly with her designers, as well as with her choreographer, Angharad Davies, who supplies some smooth and divinely fashioned steps for the opening scene.  Gerardo Diaz Sanchez’s scenic design is evocative and fits the play perfectly, and the costume designer, Herin Kaputkin, deserves a huge amount of credit for coming up with the ideal costumes for all the various eras that the playwright conjures up.  The lighting design, by Nic Vincent, is sumptuous, and works wonderfully well with Yaara Bar’s projection design.  Finally, the work of magic designer Christopher Rose is simply spellbinding.

All of these elements, as well as the finely honed performances by this flawless cast, coalesce together to form a dreamy and simply extraordinary evening of theatre.  Charise Castro Smith’s play “El Huracan” is imaginative, as well as emotional, and, even in this world premiere production at Yale Repertory Theatre, there are so many aspects of the show that she and her director have gotten just right.  “El Huracan” can certainly be highly recommended and one can only hope that this play will have a long life beyond Yale Repertory Theatre.

“El Huracan” continues performances at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, CT through October 20, 2018.  For tickets, please visit www.yalerep.org or call the box office at 203-432-1234.

Photo: Irene Sofia Lucio and Arturo Soria

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

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