“Anna in the Tropics,” about the tribulations of a Cuban family set in their 1930s Tampa cigar factory, has some adult situations not often performed by college students, according to director Jason Ramirez.
“The play strikes a chord with those who have done a lot of living,” Ramirez said. “These actors are accessing parts of their lives.”
Jacqueline Rosa who plays the matron of the family, Ofelia, in the LaGuardia Performing Arts Company show, says she takes experiences from her own years to bring her character to life. Rosa, 47, a mother of three, escaped an abusive relationship years ago and returned to school to sing and act once her youngest went to university.
“I can relate a lot to my character personally,” she said. “She keeps everyone in their place at the factory,” which she does despite her husband’s drinking and gambling problems. During the opening scene Santiago, played by Javon Minter, a young man who aptly embodies the character of the older factory owner plagued with personal demons, signs away half the cigar business to his brother Cheche, played by Barney Villalona, an ex-soldier who still has shrapnel in his shoulder and neck.
When Cheche reveals Santiago’s stupidity the audience can see Ofelia trying to make jokes and keep a light heart, but she loses her composure when the reality of the situation sinks in.
Ofelia combats the tough things in life by hiring a lector, acted by John Consentino, to read to the workers while they roll cigars. She meant to bring happiness to her family, but may not have foreseen her married older daughter, Conchita, played by Nicole Heath, falling in love with Juan Julian, the reader.
“Cheche thinks lectors are the cause of all trouble,” Marela, the youngest daughter, played by Isabel Maradiegue, says, a harbinger of Conchita and Juan Julian’s romance.
Cheche’s wife left him for a lector before the play ever begins — thus spurning his dislike for the profession — but the audience will have to wait and see if Conchita runs off into the sunset with her poet.
However, Francisco Carrillo, who plays the husband, Paloma, will say, “When he realizes he may lose his wife, then we see him fight.”
“Anna in the Tropics” was written by Ramirez’s friend Nilo Cruz, who became in 2003 the first Latino to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. About 45 students tried out for the eight spots. Many of the actors participated in LPAC’s “Little Shop of Horror” and others are new to the stage, such as Heath, who Ramirez says “has natural talent.”
When: Thursday, Nov. 15 through Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7:30; and 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16 and Sunday, Nov. 18
Where: The Little Theater at LaGuardia CC, 31-10 Thomson Ave., LIC
Tickets: $5. To purchase call (718) 482-5151 through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.