Exquisita Agonía at Repertorio Español
De Nilo Cruz Weaves Magic
By: Rachel de Aragon - May 30, 2018
By Nilo Cruz
Directed by Jose Zayas
New York, New York
May 30, 2018
Repertorio Español presents Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Nilo Cruz’s recent work, “Exquisita Agonia” (Exquisite Agony), a charming and modern take on an age-old question. What is the meaning of our legacies? What is that we leave behind when we die, and what is left to us by others?
The family of a world famous conductor who has been killed in an auto accident continues to feel his commanding presence in their lives with a twist. He has donated his heart and it is now beating in another man’s chest.
With a cast that is professional in every way that the term repertory suggests, director Jose Zayas creates a graceful and well-timed piece of theater. Raul Abrego, the scenic designer, moves us gently from doctor’s office to home with a subtle and evocative use of lighting and meaningful props. The branches of a red tree suggest a heart, the darkened windows suggest a family enclosed and unable to move into the future. Cruz’s own background in classical and popular vocal venues are apparent in the authenticity of his creation of world of his principle characters.
Luz Nicolás is the bereaved widow Millie, a high strung and emotionally expressive opera star and the play’s central focus. Her performance is the pivot upon which the drama turns. Her need to keep close to her husband’s heart inspires her to seek and to find the person to whom he has given another chance at life.
Bringing us from the brink of madness to the spiritually meaningful need for resolution and understanding of the man’s legacy. Cruz uses elements of magical realism to knit a story that has psychological and spiritual implications for everyone; the recipient, the surgeon, and the family of the deceased.
Are there really fragments of our lives left behind in DNA? Is the famed conductor’s heart changing the man in whose chest it now beats? Is the heart the driver of the body’s real systems or the home of romance, love and passion? Can it hide the truths that harm others? Does the good we do balance our pride, our sins of omission? Where do our legacies reside? What do we receive and what do we leave for others?
The theme is rich and thick. Other’s have tackled it from the cold point of view of genetics. Romance alone does not seem to answer the question. The very Latin mix of realism and romanticism, which we cannot explain, is often referred to as magical realism. It is a perspective with potential for humor and relief as well as more solid scientific insights in just the right mode. The playwright is deep, but he is also funny. There is much humor here. We are asked, even as we despair, to laugh at the very human need to exist within the past, present and future. It is perhaps our exquisite agony.
Note: For non-Spanish speaking audiences, Repertorio provides simultaneous translations in English on a small screen in front of your seat.