at The Roxy Performing Arts Center, 1645 SW 107 Avenue
Miami, FL 33165
Performing at New Theatre (Jun 8 - Jun 24)
A Cuban trio risks all in ‘A Bicycle Country’
New Theatre, Pulitzer winner Nilo Cruz charts a dangerous journey to freedom.
by Christine Dolen
Then based in Coral Gables, performing in a space with just over 100 seats, New Theatre commissioned and staged the world premiere of Cruz’s prize-winning Anna in the Tropics. The Pulitzer transformed Cruz from an admired playwright to a famous and celebrated one, and it gave a small South Florida theater company justifiable bragging rights.
New Theatre, now performing at the Roxy Performing Arts Center near Florida International University’s main campus, has actually done three Cruz world premieres: Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams in 2001, Anna in the Tropics in 2002 and Beauty of the Father in 2004. Now the company is returning to Cruz’s world with A Bicycle Country, a 1999 play that had its world premiere at the now-defunct Florida Stage and a 2000 production in the Encore Room of the in-limbo Coconut Grove Playhouse.
A Bicycle Country follows a trio of Cubans as they endure the hardships of life in the post-Soviet era, specifically in 1993 during a time dubbed “ el período especial.” Julio (Ricky J. Martinez), disabled by a stroke, can’t move his right arm and leg, and he mostly languishes in a wheelchair, unable to work. His friend Pepe (Charlie Sothers) finds an unemployed nurse, Ines (Evelyn Perez), to become Julio’s caretaker and therapist. And over some months, she brings Julio’s body and heart back to life. But as day-to-day existence grows more desperate, Ines voices a dream: Why not brave the Florida Straits and risk everything for the chance at a better life?
Inspired by René Magritte’s 1928 surrealist painting The Lovers, A Bicycle Country illuminates the hope, courage and tragedy that accompanied so many balseros on their journey from Cuba to Florida.
Directed by Steven A. Chambers, New Theatre’s production, designed by Nicole Quintana (set), Eric J. Cantrell (lighting) and Ozzie Quintana (sound), is simple but evocative. The action takes place on a raised platform that serves first as Julio’s home, then as the raft that will carry the three to freedom or death. As they travel the treacherous waters, shimmering, undulating light on the filmy curtain surrounding the raft combines with the sound of waves to take us to the place evoked by Cruz’s words. Tiny dangling lights become stars. And a final, arresting image symbolizes sacrifice and, through it, sanctuary.
Martinez, New Theatre’s artistic director, ends a six-year hiatus from acting with a strong performance as Julio, a damaged man whose spirit and sensuality are reawakened. Perez is the play’s life force as Ines, a woman who charges ahead no matter the obstacle. Sothers is solid as Pepe, the friend whose dangerous delusions make him see what is not there and want what he should not have.
In recent years, New Theatre has focused on new work, some of it inspired, some less so. Presenting an earlier play by a writer who has meant so much to the company and giving audiences a fresh chance to experience the language of an artist whose work resonates so strongly here is a lovely way to close out the season.
Three characters whose lives seem to be moving nowhere set out to build a dream, even if that dream seems perilous. This stirring portrait of three Cuban exiles and their harrowing journey across the Caribbean Sea examines the universal themes of freedom and oppression, hope and survival.
THIS SHOW CONTAINS CIGARETTE SMOKING!
New Theatre is a multi-cultural theatre which produces a season comprised of the classics and new works. These works speak to and about our diverse contemporary audience. New Theatre has been stimulating, provoking, challenging and entertaining audiences since 1986.
Entering our 27th Anniversary Season, our theatre has flourished under the energetic Artistic Direction
of Ricky J. Martinez and Managing Director, Eileen Suarez refining its focus on works which speak of
social/religious/humanistic interests, relevant issues of discrimination based on race, gender and
sexual orientation, the immigrant's plight, the role of youth in our community, and for stories from
the heart and for the soul which celebrate the mosaic that makes up our South Florida community.
We embrace the voices of early and mid-career playwrights. Many talented artists would not have a
forum for their work without our unflagging commitment to "new voices-new work." We have
commissioned and/or produced over fifty world premieres including Nilo Cruz's 2003 Pulitzer Prize
and Steinberg award-winning play Anna in the Tropics, Steinberg and Osborn award nominated Just A
Kiss by Catherine Bush, recently published works such as Clarence Darrow's Last Trial by Shirley Lauro,
Elaine Romero's Barrio Hollywood, and David Caudle's Sunken Living Room.
Our theatre has been home to several World Premieres of local professional playwrights Michael
McKeever, Susan Westfall, Dr. Richard Janaro, Alfred Allan Lewis, Lauren Feldman, and David Caudle
which later exhibit nationally and internationally. For the past twenty years, New Theatre has housed,
in its modest hundred-seat theatre, over fifty world premieres, and as many Florida premieres before moving to its current home at The
Roxy Performing Arts Center in December 2011.
Our artists have received many honors and awards, including the Key to the City of Coral Gables,
Carbonell awards and nominations from the South Florida Theater Critics Association, Best of Miami
awards in Miami New Times and SunPost, Best of the Year listings in The Miami Herald and The Sun
Sentinel, South Florida Theatre League Silver Palm Awards and 2008 South Florida Theatre Festival
Audience Favorite for Miami-Dade County and others to boot!
Our company has been the recipient of funding from The Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural
Affairs, the City of Coral Gables, The Division of Cultural Affairs of the State of Florida, and The
National Endowment for the Arts. New Theatre is a proud member of The Greater Miami Convention
and Visitors Bureau, Theatre Communications Group, The Theatre League of South Florida, The
National New Play Network (NNPN) and the Dade Cultural Alliance.