Playshop Theatre To Present “Anna in the Tropics”

Feb. 25, 2013 — The Allegheny College Playshop Theatre continues its 83rd season with “Anna in the Tropics,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz. The production, directed by Beth Watkins, will be performed in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre in the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts February 28 through March 3: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

The play evokes the world of a Tampa cigar factory in 1929, when cigars were still rolled by hand and “lectores,” or readers, were employed to educate and entertain the workers. Immigrants from Cuba, Italy and Spain worked in the factories, and the play explores the tension between old-world cultures and modern industrialization.

Cruz’s masterful storytelling reveals the workers’ reverence for literature as they listen to Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” The language and the images in the novel influence the characters’ lives in the play, with intriguing results.

“Rehearsals have included instruction on the fine art of rolling cigars, learning Cuban danzons or dances, and lessons on language pronunciation and Cuban history,” said Beth Watkins. “We’ve literally set up an assembly line for factory work on the stage so the actors could experience how social and interactive the workers’ lives were.”

Set designer Gianni Downs has created a large raked platform to represent the factory, set up in relief against a picturesque Florida sky. The costumes, designed by Miriam Patterson-Smith, represent the elegant, muted colors of linen and silk often worn by people in tropical climates. Scott Choffel is the lighting designer, and Allegheny senior Katie Krackhardt has choreographed dances for the production.

The cast includes Allegheny students Samuel Reitman, Nicholas Christensen, Karina Mena, Maya Jones, Tito Aderemi-Ibitola, Prateek Poddar, Duane Horton, Mario Buffalini, Melanie Perez, Philippa Panayiotou, Tristan Brumagin and Bailey Blashford. Senior Colleen McCaughey is the production stage manager.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7.50 for non-Allegheny students, senior citizens and Allegheny employees. Although admission is free for Allegheny students with identification, they are asked to make reservations. For more information or to order tickets, contact the Playshop Theatre box office at 814-332-3414.

Photo: Duane Horton and Tito Aderemi-Ibitola in “Anna in the Tropics.” Photo by Bill Owen