Jose Rivera's “Boleros for the Disenchanted” is an exquisitely written Latino love poem to those who have survived the trials of a long-term, committed relationship and managed to keep alive a binding thread of love. This eloquent waterfall of words and flawless storytelling is beautifully dramatized because of collaboration between the Barksdale Theatre and the Latin Ballet of Virginia, which brings the flavor of authentic Latin theater to Richmond.
The tone for the play is set with a sensuous dance by Ana Ines King and Pablo Francisco Ruval-Caba, accompanied by a Spanish love song performed by singer Jose Lorenzo and guitarist Dan Leon. The audience feels the enchanting beauty of 1953 Puerto Rico through Lynne M. Hartman's warm, tropical lighting effect and Brian Barker's well-designed set — only to learn of the social and economic decline of island culture as personified through Jorge Alberto Rubio's angry characterization of Don Fermin.
The first act is about finding love. Carmen Zilla's refreshingly real Flora ditches her cad of a fiancAc and finds what promises to be true love with Luis Vega's lighthearted but genuine Eusebio. These two have an entrancing romantic chemistry mostly mastered by Vega. He delivers Eusebio's romantic dialog so magically that this writer was blushing in sympathy with Flora.
The second act opens with the startling contrast of Eusebio and Flora's relationship tainted by 39 years of marriage, in which they seem to have turned into her parents. The casting of the actors who play Flora's parents in the first act (Patricia Dunn and Rubio) as the older Flora and Eusebio reinforces this idea. While the story tumbles out, the audience learns how the seemingly perfect couple has come to this place of harshness. The ending, however, is full of hope and bitter sweetness — a viewpoint of life, informed by Latin culture, which speaks from the heart.
This masterwork of the human experience is a must see for lovers old and new.
“Boleros for the Disenchanted” runs through Oct. 25 at the Barksdale Theatre at Willow Lawn. Tickets: $10 (from Oct. 14-18) and $39 (Oct. 20-25). For information visit www.barksdalerichmond.org or call 282-2620.