Presented by Huntington Theatre Co
Written by Huntington Playwright-in-Residence Melinda Lopez
Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston) Becoming Cuba at the Huntington Theatre is about blood origins. It is about the effect blood-ties have on our decisions, and the indirect way our origins affect the world around us. Specifically, it is about sisters Adele (Christina Pumariega) and Martina (Rebecca Soler) who run a pharmacie in Spanish-occupied Cuba. Adele attempts to remain neutral as war threatens the country she loves: her family fights in the rebellion; her husband died fighting for Spain. As Adele cares for the people of Havana, she comes to understand that loyalty is a complex beast. Love and loyalty can be divided while still remaining whole.
A conquistador (Christopher Burns) quotes Shakespeare in the opening monologue of the play. The quote, “blood will have blood,” is used in The Scottish Play but its roots do not originate in Shakespeare. This quote has a Spanish heritage. It means that violence will beget violence. In Becoming Cuba the meaning is extended to mean that blood will return to blood. Like attracts like.
Melinda Lopez has written a beautifully balanced piece of theatre that has a lot to offer its audience. Lopez writes all of her characters as multifaceted, realistic heros of their own stories. In specific, her female characters are rich and fully developed. Our heroine, Adele (Pumariega), suffers great emotional pain while still embracing joy as she experiences it. Adele is soft when hostessing customers and fierce when protecting her family regardless of their loyalties. Pumariega gives Adele great strength even as she crumbles under societal pressure to do what is easy. She, like the entire cast, is captivating to watch as Adele grows during the performance.
For the actors, producers and directors in the audience, there are several fantastic monologues and scenes (for men and women) for educational purposes. For example, Hautey’s wife (played by the versatile Marianna Bassham) has a comedic monologue with range that could prove useful for auditions.
The play is entirely in English. This language has been chosen entirely for the benefit of the audience (and appreciated by this reviewer). As it is a play about the Cuban-Spanish war, it would make sense to hold performances in Spanish. The brilliant cast would excel in either language. Rather, it is in English because, like our participation in the Cuban-Spanish war, we Americans are invested in how this production is perceived by the Cuban and Spanish communities. It’s in English and not in Spanish for the same reason we gave the Spanish iron and soldiers to the Cubans: it’s more profitable this way.