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Theater review: 'Solitude' at the Latino Theater Company

June 17, 2011 |  3:30 pm

Ash Solitude 246
The Latino Theater Company’s contribution to Radar L.A. is “Solitude,” by Evelina Fernández, a stylishly directed, charmingly acted but melodramatic and drawn-out portrait of Gabriel (Geoffrey Rivas), who reunites with his former best friend, Johnny (Sal López), and his first love, Ramona (playwright Fernández), at his mother’s funeral. 

Twenty years earlier, Gabriel abandoned the warmth and poverty of his childhood for financial success and emotional isolation in a childless marriage to beautiful, lonely Sonia (Lucy Rodríguez). It’s apparent early on that Ramona’s son, the confused and moody 25-year-old Angel (Fidel Gomez), is Gabriel’s son too, and that this revelation will emotionally tax both the characters and the audience. I found myself glancing at my neighbor’s watch as the climax loomed, wondering how much time and how many tears I would have to invest in it. (More than enough.)

The real angel of the story is Manolo or “The Man” (Robert Beltran), the uncommonly romantic limo driver who conveys the guests from the cemetery to a reception at Gabriel’s fancy penthouse (a gorgeous spare set by François-Pierre Couture made up of an off-kilter proscenium arch, a piano, a few chairs and lots of wine glasses). The Man is a self-styled expert on lovemaking, although he claims never to have been in love. A devotee of the famous Mexican writer, he punctuates his ruminations with the attribution “Octavio Paz!” Beltran’s presence and eloquence are absorbing. Fernández’s Ramona has an earthy, hysterical laugh that conveys both pluck and despair, and she’s gorgeous in a blowzy and downtrodden way in her tight dress and high heels (one of costume designer Nikki Delhomme’s nice ensembles). 

All of the actors, in fact, appeal. Director José Luis Valenzuela (the LTC’s artistic director) imparts his customary, ineffable tongue-in-cheek charm. And the dance sequences that intersperse the action—each performer playfully interpreting Mexican styles—are lighthearted and entertaining. Semyon Kobialka provides lovely accompaniment on the cello. The text has plenty of strengths—whimsy and insight, tenderness and cruelty—but it’s dragged down by excessive length and the eagerness to explain itself to an audience it evidently expects to be composed of dolts. Give us some credit! As Sonia rebukes The Man, who can be a little condescending, “I may be miserable but I’m not slow.” 

 --Margaret Gray

"Solitude," Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Ends June 19. $20. Contact: www.redcat.org or (213) 237-2800. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Photo: The cast of "Solitude."

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