Leave everyday life behind and allow yourself to escape into a world of romance and tradition with Yuba College’s production of “Anna in the Tropics.”
Nilo Cruz’s play called out to Yuba College Professor of theater and Director David Wheeler when he first viewed it in New York City.
“I saw this play on Broadway a couple of years ago,” Wheeler said as he was preparing for opening night. “I was immediately taken with it and thought it was something that we could do here that our audience would like.”
“Anna” is set in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, in 1929 and tells a tale of longing, heartache and friendships which is anchored by a lector, who is someone factory workers pay to read novels and news to them throughout the work day. The lector, played by Marco Antonio Ruiz, chooses to read Loe Tolstoy’s novel “Anna Karenina” to the workers of a small cigar shop.
As the lector reads from “Anna Karenina,” a novel of adultery set in nineteenth-century Russia, the workers cannot resist being affected by the powerful words of Tolstoy. Inevitably, the deeper the lector delves into the book, the less control the workers have over their passions and desires, which leads to lustful affairs and disconnected relationships.
“This play shows us how to deal with everyday life situations,” Ruis said as he took a break from rehearsal. “Life’s not always about good times and comedy. There are ver dark parts of who we are, and sometimes we have to go out of relationships to fulfill needs and desires. ‘Anna in the Tropics’ really addresses that. This play is down to earth, and you can really understand where these people are coming from.”
“Anna” draws from the talents of nine cast members whose acting experience ranges from some seasoned professionals to whose who are just now coming into their own in the acting world. The cast has a great chemistry on stage which Ruiz credits to Neil Cruz.
“I feel that the playwright, Nilo Cruz, has really made all of his characters’ emotions come to life,” Ruiz said, “which made it easy for us actors to have motivation and really get into our rolls.”
The stage for this production is simple and constructed to resemble a large cigar box, which makes the transitions from one scene to another unnoticeable. Costume Designer Ann Evans did a superb job at designing the period pieces for this production.
Nilo Cruz first intended to set his 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning play in the 1800s, in the time when lectors played an important role in cigar factories. But because that historical reference would have been too complicated to dramatically depict, Cruz choose to focus on the role the lector played in the factories during the 1920s, a time when personal and financial independence were inseparable.