One who does, happily, is Carlos Orizondo as Lorca, and this is easily his best work in memory. Orizondo brings a sly, low-key wit, a deft physicality, and a seemingly effortless way with Cruz's words -- he handles the imagery as lightly as the balloon Lorca carries. Orizondo has heretofore been hampered by a certain dour demeanor that at times comes across as humorless self-importance. Here, he shows a welcome dose of playfulness, which nicely balances all that gravitas.
As Hakim, Euriamis Losada has a boyish charm but little threat or carnal heat. As was the case with Anna, Beauty of the Father is driven by a romantic interloper who is a threat to family order and the object of feminine (and implicit homoerotic) desire. In this, Cruz echoes not Lorca but Tennessee Williams: Think Brando in Streetcar. One might forgive the New for failing to recognize this once, but twice? In the New's post-Pulitzer era, some of its casting is starting to look like indulgence. Also like Anna, Beauty is visually stylish, but the scene work feels sketchy in places -- the love scene between Hakim and Marina couldn't have less spark if it were faxed in. That's not a slap at the actors, who like all artists have to work with what they have or haven't, and what they haven't, I suspect, is time to discover and explore the text.
Roberto Escobar (left) and Euriamis Losada, artist and student and maybe more
Through February 15. Call 305-443-5909 or www.new-theatre.org
This leads to a big question for the New: Which of its professed loyalties -- to developing new works or to an ongoing acting ensemble -- is paramount? As the Cruz plays reveal, you can't have it both ways. Some plays require certain actors; if you don't have them in your pocket, look in your back yard, and if they aren't there either, have some shipped in. Perhaps the biggest question of all is whether to move up or stay put. The Pulitzer surprise was the chance of a lifetime -- several lifetimes -- for the New to step into a brave new world of national and international attention, along with the higher expectations and standards such a move must necessarily bring. But if this Beauty is any indication, it's still business as usual down in the Gables. Whether this is conservative wisdom or a huge blown opportunity remains to be seen.