It is often said that art imitates life.
Whether it is the written word, a painting or a song, bits and pieces of the world in the time of its composition can be seen in between the strokes of any work of art.
For the opening of its 2017 season, the Jungle Theatre chose a piece that explores what happens when the opposite is true.
“Anna in the Tropics,” written by Nilo Cruz, tells the story of a cigar factory in Tampa run by a Cuban-American family. While all other factories are becoming modernized this particular one is still run by traditions, including the use of a lector. The story begins as a new lector arrives to the factory and reads to the workers from Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” Soon, life at the factory begins to imitate life outlined in the 1800s Russian novel.
The set immediately transports you to sunny, steamy Tampa, Fla.
The stage is doused in a golden light, with shutters made of paper that ruffle in a breeze. It is outlined in rolled papers resembling cigars and alludes to a tropical world beyond the walls of the factory.
Both the papers representing the shutters and cigars are made from pages of a book, illustrating how the written word surrounds us.
Combining these elements with Cruz’s words and Larissa Kokernots direction, the play shows a world in which dissension lurks below even the most relaxed disposition.
This is blatantly shown in Conchita (Nora Montanez), Palomo (Rich Remedios) and Juan Julian (Juan Rivera Lebron) as a love triangle emerges, but subtly shown in each of the supporting characters as well.
Though Adlyn Carreras (Ofelia), Cristina Florencia Castro (Marela) and Al Clemente Saks (Santiago), as the family that owns the factory, add light hearted moments of humor, each character is plagued with their own tragedy.
As the plot thickens, Cruz shows that when people begin to find inspiration in works of art as a way to change their own situation it is never an easy transition. There are growing pains that are never expected, much like modernizing a business has unpredicted side effects.
In turn, it is these growing pains that inspire new artistic endeavors.
In an age where many productions have been chastised for their lack of diversity, Kokernot and Artistic Director Sarah Rasmussn celebrate the culture of the show with a cast entirely made up of either Latin American actors or actors of Latin American descent.
In the end, the show leaves audiences reflecting on how no matter what jealousy, infidelity, loneliness and rage are present across cultures and generations, and on the intricate relationship that is the real world and our own creations.