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Theater review: 'Solitude' at Los Angeles Theatre Center

September 24, 2009 |  3:45 pm


Swelling with art, heart and high style, “Solitude,” a Latino Theater Company production at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, examines the human imperatives of love in all its painful permutations.

Evelina Fernández’s world-premiere play was largely inspired by Octavio Paz’s “The Labyrinth of Solitude,” a landmark work positing that the conflict between Mexico’s indigenous and Spanish cultures had split the collective Mexican psyche in two, with an outward “mask” of conviviality concealing inner despair.

Honoring that duality, director José Luis Valenzuela pitches the tone midway between funeral and festival.  Scenes are punctuated with sensual dance sequences in which the performers, under the able guidance of choreographer Urbanie Lucero, spin in solo orbits of movement, a sort of solipsistic tango that underscores the mood.

Most isolated of the lot is Gabriel (Geoffrey Rivas), a wealthy lawyer who returns to his impoverished Latino neighborhood for the funeral of his mother, whom he has not seen in 20 years. François-Pierre Couture’s sparely elegant yet sterile set is the perfect milieu for the funeral reception where the bulk of the action transpires.  There, Gabriel, who is trapped in a loveless marriage to Sonia (Lucy Rodríguez), struggles to reconnect with those he left behind, including Johnny (wonderfully earthy Sal López), the best friend he left without a word of farewell, and his first love, Ramona (Fernández), whose adult son, Angel (Fidel Gomez), just may be Gabriel’s.

Connecting the dots of Fernández’s expansive themes is a mysterious Man (sexy, funny Robert Beltran in the show’s linchpin performance), a limo driver and self-described lovemaking expert who frequently quotes directly from Paz, accompanied by Semyon Kolbialka’s indispensable live cello music.  Granted, the play occasionally detours into sentimentality, but its heartfelt emotional core, coupled with Valenzuela’s superb staging, make “Solitude” a shared pleasure.

--F. Kathleen Foley

Solitude,” LATC, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles.  8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.  Ends Oct. 4.  $35.  (213) 489-0994, Ext. 107.  Running time:  2 hours, 30 minutes.

Photo: Robert Beltran, Semyon Kolbialka and Fidel Gomez in "Solitude." Credit: Ed Krieger