New York's Repertorio Espanol, America's oldest Spanish repertory theatre company, is now engaging in Obscure Rumors, staged by the visiting Cuban theatre troupe, Teatro Estudio.
Abelardo Estorino's play -- a U.S. premiere -- concerns a 19th century Cuban poet who confronts demons while championing the rights of enslaved blacks. (This was during the time when African slaves and native Cubans were rebelling against Spain's colonial rule.) Rumors is based on the true story of Jose' Jacinto Milanes, "a great poet and independentist," notes Repertorio Espanol artistic director, Rene Buch. Milanes had a breakdown and wouldn't speak for the last twenty years of his life. The play is a dreamworld that imagines the sister who cared for him, the woman in his life, and the sociology of Cuba at that time.
Directed by the author, the three-character "chamber epic" opened Oct. 22 and is scheduled to run to Nov. 16. (Unlike other Repertorio Espanol productions that stay in continuous circulation, Vagos Rumores has a limited run because Teatro Estudio is a guest company from Cuba.) Adria Santana, Alfredo Alonso and Rien Rene Losada comprise the cast.
In his review for the Village Voice (Oct. 29), Ed Morales noted that "[Abelardo] Estorino doesn't miss his big chance to push is award-winning play to ecstatic levels. All three actors give excellent, uninhibited performances, expertly riding the ebb and flow of Estorino's elegant and poignant verse."
Rene Buch told Playbill On-Line that Spanish Repertory's producer and associate producer were visiting family in Havana and saw a production of Vagos Rumores. They brought back a video tape, and it was decided to bring the company to New York for this engagement. "It's a marvelous staging with three very good actors," asserts Buch, "and it says a lot about Cuban thought and attitudes, then and today."
-- By David Lefkowitz