Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Anna in the TropicsManatee Players
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

David Yamin and Gabriel Vicente
Photo by Brian Craft, Courtesy Manatee Players
Manatee Players is presenting Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics as part of its Action Through Acting series in their smaller venue, The Kiwanis Theatre. The play is set in Ybor City, 1929, a mere 60 miles from Manatee Center for the Performing Arts. I have toured the area, taking in the museums and historical sites that inform about the lives of those involved in cigar production. Cruz shows us the strong community orientation of the area, along with a fictional romance in an interesting play, but not a Pulitzer Prize worthy one. It won this prestigious honor in 2003.

I am an advocate of colorblind casting, but some plays seem to argue against this practice, their characters being so culturally specific that it becomes an uphill struggle for those outside the culture to properly portray them. This is the case in Anna in the Tropics and Manatee Players' cast proves the point. Standouts in the seven-member ensemble cast are Gabriel Vicente as Juan Julian, the lector who reads "Anna Karenina" to the workers; David Yamin as Cheche, half brother to factory owner Santiago; Martha A. Lopez as Ofelia, Santiago's wife; and Ana Maria Larson. Others work hard to give their characters honesty, but roots in Hispanic culture pays huge dividends in this play.

I have seen director Preston Boyd's work on many area stages, most notably at the sadly lost Starlite Players. Because of the lack of strong cultural connection, the directing is capable but not his best. He paces the show well, keeping the action moving steadily forward, and his staging is theatrical. All of this is presented on a richly detailed set by Ralph Nurmela which could proudly sit on the stage of many of the areas professional theaters. Costumes by Georgina Willmott are fine for the men, adequate for the women until late in the second act when they get dressed in their finery. Lighting by Patrick Bedell and sound design by Todd Olson contribute to the production.

The community partner for Anna in the Tropics is UnidosNow, an organization that advocates the importance of education with high school and now younger children.

Anna in the Tropics is a delicate play, very culturally specific. I am thrilled that Manatee Players has brought it to this area, with its large Hispanic/Latino population. I hope they will come out to see it.

Manatee Players presents Anna in the Tropics at Manatee Center for the Performing Arts through October 29, 2017, at 502 3rd Ave W., Bradenton FL; 941-748-0111,

Cast: Juan Julian: Gabriel Vicente
Conchita: Ana Maria Larson
Cheche: David Yamin
Palomo: Winn W. Wasson
Santiago: Eldred Brown, Jr.
Ofelia: Martha A. Lopez
Marela: Danielle Snelling