REVIEW: BLT’s ‘Beauty of the Father’ reaches deep into the emotive centers
by Shelli Park
It is nothing new to consider that we are complex creatures. We have many layers, and needs associated with each layer. We sometimes choose to turn a blind eye on layers we are afraid of, and accentuate the layers we think represent the most acceptable side of us. Through this distorted lens of self we seek love.
Burien Little Theatre (soon to be Burien Actors Theatre) in partnership with Latino Theatre Projects presents Nilo Cruz’s amazing and complex play, Beauty of the Father. This play develops themes of love and identity set on the coast of Spain. It is deftly directed by Michael D. Blum.
The main character, Emiliano, is an artist and absentee father who has found himself the companion of the ghost of one of Spain’s greatest poets, Frederico Garcia Lorca. On this relationship hinges the evolution of Emiliano, the man. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have the wisdom of hindsight in the form of a spirit companion such as Lorca?
Emiliano is played by Fernando Luna. I was excited when I saw and heard Luna on the stage, and knew that I was in for a treat. He played the patriarch in last summers BLT/Latino Theatre Project collaboration with passion and sensitivity, and again brings depth and skill to the current production.
This father is a complex man who has great disappointments and fears, but ultimately is capable of learning great lessons.
Santino Garcia plays an amazing Lorca, who retains his ego even after death. He interacts with Emiliano as confidante, counselor, and devil’s advocate. Garcia’s manner is easy and confidant on stage. He is Lorca, and carries his images, pain, and hope with him as he observes the family dynamics. We believe this bit of afterlife magic as if it was something totally normal.
Lorca’s poetry is filled with strong imagery which sometimes seems incongruent on the surface, but which reaches deep into the emotive centers. Cruz uses this imagery in the play, and we swim in the strange waters, ultimately returning to simple truths of life.
Cruz also adds a bit of important history to the content. He explores the time period which Lorca inhabited, World War II, and some of Lorca’s tragic story. The great poet was executed for so-called radical ideas and outspoken ways. The addition of political content anchors the play in reality, and causes us to process different layers of thought. We are being entertained, yes, but we are also learning.
The scenes are played on a beautiful set designed by Maggie Larrick. She has created a little piece of Spain. The set, which encompasses the world of this unconventional family, is efficient in its design and creates the necessary feel to help us disappear into their world for awhile. Emiliano’s work-in-progress, which sits on the easel facing away from the audience, is projected onto the wall stage left. As the play progresses, so does the work of art. It is a wonderful addition to the action (Art created by James Barnia).
And the moon…projected, also, it creates both a sense of the romantic, and a sense of foreboding.
Spanish music is interlaced throughout, both as character, and as ambiance.
The daughter, Marina, played by Emily Feliciano, a passionate and capable actor. Marina is mourning the death of her mother, seeking to find answers and solace from the father from whom she has been separated for so long. Does he remember her as a girl? Why did he abandon her? Why can’t she stop thinking about her mother, who was always so beautiful, even after death?
“Her death is like a hood over my face.”
Such heavy thoughts for one so young.
Marina is taken with the Moroccan boy, who creates beautiful scents and lives in her father’s home. Karim (Matt Aguayo) is enchanted with her, as well, and they play a gentle game of falling in love. Aguayo took a little while to find himself deeply rooted in his character. This was the only place in the play where my immersion in the action was distracted. His is a complex role. To be lost, and found, then lost again. Ultimately, Aguayo, fills these shoes.
Paquita (Heather Ward) is the companion of Emiliano. She creates an extra layer of intrigue, and humor to the family dynamic. She is light-hearted, but only on the surface. Paquita is a little too jolly, at times, but only to hide the pain. She has seen and experienced much. Ward fills the role beautifully. She knows when to hold on, and when let go the right amount, and at the right time.
Who are these characters to each other? What is love?
Cruz, through Lorca, leads us on this journey of the varieties and levels of love, and pain, and the realization of who each character really is. We watch the effects on each character as relations are revealed and emotions are processed. We arrive at a sense of peace, of sorts, in the end. Through growth and compassion, and encouraged by the ghost of Lorca, we don’t know the ending of this story, but we are left with the feeling of hope.
Beauty of the Father continues at Burien Little Theatre through Aug. 25.
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices range from $7 to $20. Check out special opening weekend ticket deals. For tickets or information, go online to www.latinotheatreprojects.org, www.burienlittletheatre.org, or call 206-242-5180.
And don’t forget – you can save $5 by using this exclusive B-Town Blog coupon:
And here are more photos courtesy Michael Brunk: