New Theater is filled with an eager audience. Conversations in Spanish fill the room as men wearing guayaberas and moving to the rhythm of Guantanamera take their seats in anticipation of Nilo Cruz's celebrated play, A Bicycle Country. We know these are familiar words that will tell us a story that cannot be erased. A story some of us recognize from our own lives.
The play tells of three friends in Cuba searching for a better life. Wheelchair bound Julio Del Valle played by Ricky J. Martinez has lost hope. His friend Pepe (Charles Sothers) and Inez (Evelyn Perez), a woman they hire to care for Julio refuse to let him give up.
“When you lift this pillow, you will have a better life.” says Inez. A game she created when mending Julio’s pillow cases inherited from generations before. The feeling is of family, culture, and the strength of belief. The relationship between Julio, Inez, and Pepe is palpable. Evelyn Perez, as Inez, is beautiful in capturing her essence. She emits the tenacious beauty of a Cuban woman who sings and dances in times of hardship. She is the strength that convinces Julio to leave Cuba.
Julio, as played by Ricky J. Martinez is instantly heart warming. His physicality is striking as he fights to walk from one corner of the room to another. Charles Sothers as Pepe, depicts a child's innocence; he brings laughter and purity in moments where they are much needed.
The scene changes are indicated through voice over, making clear where we are and how many days have passed. Each day shows a progression from where we started. Perhaps a lamp is sold and the hope is now a truth. They will build a raft, sell their belongings and leave their country.
Act two begins on the raft and we are along for the journey. They have a little water, cigarettes, a radio, and a compass. They tell stories of the past, talk of the future, and hallucinate that the dream has arrived. “They have come for us!” says Pepe. But the dream is short lived when days have passed and they are lost in the perilous 90 mile stretch of the shark infested sea.
This play will tell you the story of the transitioning moment in Cuba from having everything to losing it all. From the moment that it became the bicycle country.
A Bicycle Country plays at the New Theatre through June 24. At The Roxy Performing Arts Center, 1645 SW 107th Avenue, Miami. 305-443-5909 http://new-theatre.org