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Boleros

March 4, 2012 – 7:58 pm

My honey and I went to the Milagro Theater last night and caught their final performance of Boleros for the Disenchanted. Written by José Rivera (Oscar-nominated author of the screenplay adaptation of The Motorcycle Diaries) this play focuses on the Puerto Rican lovers, Flora and Eusebio, and shows us two pivotal scenes from their life: when they meet in 1950’s Puerto Rico and their last days forty years later in America’s rural Alabama. I’m so glad we saw this show, though we very nearly missed it.

art by Suzanne Tellez

art by Suzanne Tellez

We first heard about it through my aunt, the brilliant artist Suzanne Tellez, who did the art card for this production. A friend of mine, Julie, saw the show and gave it glowing accolades, which just made us more interested. We were set to go last weekend but we got caught up in Saint Johns and couldn’t get to the theater by showtime, so we promptly reserved our tickets for this final show and made damn sure not to miss it.

We took our seats a few minutes before showtime. I thumbed through the playbill and saw that the theater had just installed new seats and that for a contribution patrons could purchase one of these new seats, meaning you’d get a plaque with your name tacked onto the armrest. I love these kinds of posterity tricks and I pointed it out to Katie. She suggested we could get a plaque in honor of my late step-father and Suzanne’s brother David Marfin. This was genius and I thought about it as the lights went dark and the theater creaked and chirped with the night sounds of rural Puerto Rico.

The lights came up on a simple set, the front of Flora’s home. Flora burst through the door, upset, still in her night robe, shocked, disbelieving the rumors of her fiancé Manuelo’s infidelity. Her mother comes outside to console her and to encourage her back inside where the busy-body neighbors won’t see them and spread foul gossip.

As it happens, young Flora and Manuelo have a falling out, her parents send her to her cousin in the city where she meets young Eusebio, who visits her in her hometown to meet her parents and ask for her hand. Brief intermission. Forty years later we see old Flora and old Eusebio in Alabama near the end of their life.

The actors and the set and sounds and lighting were mesmerizing and smart. Directed by Antonio Sonera, the actors Luisa Sermol and Ted Schulz play young Flora’s parents in the first act, and then old Flora and Eusebio in the second act. Their strong performances in the second act especially make this play an evocative success. Of course they succeed by juxtaposing their performances against the first act representations of young Flora and Eusebio as acted by Kylie Clarke Johnson and Logan Loughmiller (who also play a nurse and priest respectively in the second act.) The philandering fiancé Manuelo in act one is played by CarlosAlexis Cruz who returns in act two as a young American soldier. Nicole Virginia Accuardi plays Flora’s city-cousin in the first act and the American soldier’s fiancé in the second and she gives terrific supporting performances that really guides the audience’s attention to the main characters.

Boleros for the Disenchanted is a story about what it means to be in a forever-relationship. It’s about the relationships between parent and child, husband and wife. My mirror neurons searched out comparable examples from my own life to match what I saw unfolding before me and my thoughts turned again to my late step dad David. He seemed at times pessimistic about the quality of human life but he also cherished family and good friends. I thought about my mother and the arguments we’ve had through the years, the little things that separate us despite our affections. I thought my extended family and the family I’m about to start. I thought again about getting one of these seats for David.

I consider Boleros a success because it made me feel. It didn’t make me realize, or consider, or witness; seated anonymously in the darkness my heart opened up and I felt the heartache life brings, but it didn’t get me down, it lifted me up–I am blessed to live a life with someone who loves me. That feeling, knowing life includes pain but that it’s better than the alternative, that’s the Blues.

Boleros for the Disenchanted gave me the good kind of Blues and I loved it.