Theater Review: Boleros for the Disenchanted—a Puerto Rican love story

July 23, 2009

boleroBoleros for the Disenchanted is a true love story based on the lives of playwright José Rivera’s parents. Living in Puerto Rico with her parents in the 1950s, Flora, played by Elizabeth Ledo, deeply in love with Manuelo (Felix Solis), is unable to deal with the double standard inflicted on young women who must remain chaste while males have the freedom to engage in many sexual relationships. The charming Manuelo tries in vain to convince her that their marriage can proceed in spite of his philandering.

Sandra Marquez (Dona Milla) is the protective mother, and René Rivera is the domineering father. It is only after Flora goes to the city to visit her cousin, Petra (Liza Fernandez), that true romance becomes a reality. She meets Eusebio (Joe Minoso), a slightly overweight soldier who instantly wins her love. The first act ends with their marriage and departure to the United States to begin a new life.

Henry Godinez, the resident artistic associate and curator of Goodman’s Latino Theater Festival, has the sensitivity and experience to give Rivera’s play direction and interpretation of his beautiful story. His casting is perfect. Each actor assumes a different role in Act II, and we see a whole new play. The amazing Sandra Marquez becomes Flora, living with her beloved husband, now played by René Rivera, in Alabama. Aging has not been kind. After raising nine children, they live in an apartment that has literally become a nursing home. Flora’s constant care for a diabetic, disabled mate enables their lives to continue. Young love is filled with hope, while as we grow old, it is our concern that dominates our lives.

Boleros… becomes a universal story of our humanity. Ledo assumes the role of Eve, the nurse who gives Eusebio daily care. Fernandez is Monica, the young woman about to marry Oskar (Minoso). They come to Flora for advice on marriage and see the living example of constant love. Solis is the priest who comes when Eusebio is convinced he is dying, and there are great moments of comedy.

Wherever you are in life, Boleros… is completely relevant and touching. There were many tears as the play ended. Running through July 26, tickets are available at (312) 443-3800 or at GoodmanTheatre.org.

from the July 22-28, 2009, issuebolero

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