If you need a respite from the winter doldrums, the latest production on the main stage at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College will transport you to steamy, Depression-era South Florida.
The regional premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Anna in the Tropics” by Nilo Cruz runs Thursday through Feb. 24.
The play is set in a cigar factory in Ybor City, a Cuban enclave in Tampa. The workers hire a “lector” from Cuba to read to them, hoping to pass the time as they roll out cigar after cigar. He chooses the Russian novel “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy.
“The plotline of ‘Anna Karenina’ starts to invade the cigar workers’ lives in this beautiful, lyrical play,” said Scott RC Levy, the FAC’s director of performing arts and producing artistic director. “The novel takes place in winter Russia. The writer made a clear choice to have a romance that takes place in a cold environment being read in a very hot environment.”
Levy said it’s a sensual play with a bit of violence and some adult situations, which led the FAC to recommend it for an audience ages 16 and older.
“This is a heated family drama very much about this group of Cuban cigar workers. It’s a beautifully written play that I’ve loved for a very long time. I also liked it because I do consider myself a cigar aficionado,” he said.
“There’s a lot of romance to it, so to produce it around Valentine’s Day made a lot of sense. But also it’s the first time we’ve done a play on our stage that is inclusive of an entirely Latin community.”
The FAC hired director Rebecca Martinez, from Brooklyn, N.Y., who brought in a cast of seven Latino actors, including Colorado Springs-based A.B. Lugo.
“She was able to call in a lot of actors who she may not have worked with before but who she knew. The result is an amazing company. She created her own family,” Levy said.
Cuban-American playwright Cruz was commissioned by the New Theatre in Coral Gables, Fla., to write the play for its 2002-03 season. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2003.
“Most of the Pulitzer committee had only read the play and not seen it performed. It’s very rare for a play not produced in New York to win,” Levy said.
Levy pointed out that “Anna Karenina” is currently onstage at the Stage Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, through Feb. 24.
MICHELLE KARAS, THE GAZETTE, MICHELLE.KARAS@GAZETTE.COM