“Little bits of her keep drifting off. Where does it go? … it must be somewhere.” Loss and love – and the ways that family alone can transcribe both indelibly on our hearts – are central themes in Cygnet’s El Huracán, running through February 19 at the Old Town Theatre.
Described as a lyrical drama, El Huracán centers around a multigenerational Cuban family living in Miami. Daughter Miranda (Sandra Ruiz) has come home from Harvard to help her mother Ximena (Catalina Maynard) and family friend Fernando (Christopher Cruz) prepare for a Category 5 hurricane. While they are able to bring abuela Valeria (Amalia Alarcón Morris) home to higher ground, they nonetheless struggle with helping her find a true calm; after all, Valeria sees visions of her beloved lost husband Alonso (Manny Fernandes), sister Alicia (Carla Navarro), and memories of a past with magic at its center. Further complicating things, Valeria is coping with memory loss and doesn’t recognize her own family members. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that the storm may steal more than they are prepared to give.
Set on a simple stage inspired by the hurricane itself – blue wave-shaped walls, an eye at its center, and a spiraling wire tempest light structure suspended above – scenic and projection designer Yi-Chien Lee has created a playground where the actors and artistic team can explore the unexpected. This is key as playwright Charise Castro Smith’s story is rife with imagination and suspended disbelief. Director Daniel Jáquez has put together a team for this production which includes lighting designer Elba Emicente Sanchez, sound designer Eliza Vedar, props designer Teresa Jove, costume designer Daniella Toscano, and wig and makeup designer Peter Herman.
There is incredible depth of development in multiple characters, and one unique thing about this show is that the actors do play these roles at multiple ages. I find this complexity to add to the overall depth of the story and appreciate the opportunity that it lends to incorporate parallelism into the script as language, mannerisms, songs, and events are echoed from generation to generation.
When the line “you are a question mark at the beginning of my life” was uttered, I found myself start to tear up a bit. How, I wondered, can we capture the memories, experiences, and sacrifices of our families in stories alone? El Huracán may not answer this question in full, but it certainly raises it in an artistic way.
Cygnet’s El Huracán will continue its run through February 19.