With Spoleto winding to a close, it’s reasonable to expect audiences and actors to feel Piccoloed out. There’s only so much theater one can gobble up in a three week period. Yet people were eager to see Cloud Tectonics, some for the second or third time, and a decent-sized throng caught its opening night.
We can understand why theatergoers would come back to this play more than once. It’s mesmerizing and unusual, with the heady concepts of time, love, and purpose wrapped up in a simple story structure. The acting is subtle but has impact. This is as far as you can get from in-your-face theatre; instead the ideas and atmosphere soak into you like an osmotic Puerto Rican potion.
Writer Jose Rivera, Oscar-nominated for The Motorcycle Diaries screenplay, wonders whether a miraculous, otherworldly creature can change a pragmatic life (the answer is yes and no). He questions the validity of fleeting love in a crumbling society. He also hearkens back to the romantic poets of old, poeticizing the bond between lovers that can make them lose track of time.
Time seems to have helped actress Sharon Graci add emotional depth to her character, a slightly barmy woman who “didn’t learn about time,” so she’s not its prisoner. Graci is fully committed to the role of Celestina del Sol, who experiences a slew of feelings from excited happiness to utter loneliness. Rodney Lee Rogers plays the more practical Anibal de la Luna with a dash of open-eyed childlike wonder — how else to react to a possibly immortal woman who looks 25 but says she’s in her mid-50s?
David Mandel adds a lot of humor as Anibal’s brother Nelson, the most down-to-earth of all the characters. With a few broad strokes, Mandel does his best to breathe life into a guy whose transformation into a desperate suitor seems sudden and barely convincing. That’s a problem with the script, since Nelson’s afforded so little stage time.
Michael Moran adds appropriate tender music and door-slamming sound effects, all on his guitar. On stage the whole time, he’s the unsung hero of the play, helping Cloud Tectonics’ flights of fancy to soar with an insistent rhythm.
With a simple lighting setup, two chairs, and some chalk outlines on the floor, PURE Theatre creates a strong sense of place even as the characters lose their sense of time. Lance Hall isn’t the perfect venue for this delicate play — the actors have to compete with A/C and imperfect acoustics (for the best experience, sit near the entrance) — but it’s a treat to see this anywhere. Catch it before time runs out.
Cloud Tectonics • Piccolo Spoleto Theatre Series • $25 • 1 hour 20 min. • June 4-7 at 7.30 p.m. • Circular Congregational Church, Lance Hall, 150 Meeting St. • (888) 374-2656