DOMINICAL, Puntarenas – The Dominical Little Theatre has broken with tradition this year by staging a drama for the first time since its inception in 2003 in this beach community on the southern Pacific coast.
The company set itself a stiff challenge by choosing “Anna in the Tropics,” a play that won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2003. Written by Cuban exile Nilo Cruz and set in 1929, the play tells the story of the workers in a Florida cigar factory. A new“lector,” the dashing Juan Julián, arrives to read to the workers, beginning with Tolstoy’s classic “Anna Karenina,” but both the novel and the lector slowly begin to upset the balance of the factory, bringing out the intrigues and jealousies of the workers.
Director Monica Perez acknowledged that the piece marked quite a departure from the musicals that have been the group’s staple thus far.
“I felt ready to work on a play with more substance and am hoping our community will feel the same,” she said. “The script captivated my imagination. I fell in love with the language, the characters and the story, and I believed I could cast it from our talent base.”
Actress Amilia Louisa Plowman, who plays Ofelia, was taken aback by the choice. “When I read the script, I was blown away. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe we’re going to do this,’” she said.
Nevertheless, she agreed with the theater’s financial manager, Tom Parker, who said, “We had to do it.”
“You can’t be frivolous forever if you want to succeed as a theater,” added Shawnell Parker, artistic director and wife of Tom. However, the gamble has paid off in spectacular style. The play opened Feb. 15, following the dress rehearsal gala the day before, and the group did a fantastic job. The cast produced a series of highly believable and authentic characters and teased out complex themes such as love, boredom and the blurred divide between fantasy and reality without crossing the line into melodrama or sentimentalism.
This success can be attributed to a lot of hard work, especially given that the diverse cast includes some for whom English is not their first language and others who have no acting experience. Some of the performers have been rehearsing for as many as 15 hours a week. And to help with characterization, the entire cast visited a cigar factory to experience the atmosphere they had to recreate.
“My cast has worked very hard on this one, and I am really proud of them,” Perez said.
The group is now selling its own branded cigars to help raise funds.
Amanda Starr Rodriguez, who plays Conchita, said at first she struggled with the complexities of the role.
“I had no prior experience, so for me it was very difficult and challenging. I was getting really frustrated, but then one day it just clicked,” she said.
In fact, the difficulties of staging such a complex play served to bring the team together.
“We have become quite a family back there,” said Shawnell Parker.
At the time of this writing, the crew was setting out for its first-ever performance away from Dominical, at Rancho Tico in Nosara, up the coast on the NicoyaPeninsula, on Tuesday night.
“We are very excited about it,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not sure what to expect but I’m really looking forward to it.”
The final two performances are scheduled for tonight and Sunday at the Roca Verde hotel in Dominical. Curtain is at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from ¢3,000 to ¢10,000 ($6 to $20). For information, call 787-8007, 308-8055 or 850-7477, or visit the hotel.