Passion, history and magical realism converge in North Coast Rep’s world-premiere production of Melinda Lopez’s Becoming Cuba. That’s quite a convergence, and owing to the complexity and the ambition of the play, it’s an uneasy one. The talented Lopez’s script makes so many points (about war, family, love, loyalty, independence) and wields swords at so many foes that Becoming Cuba overwhelms. The narrative needs tightening. The play, directed by David Ellenstein, has a first-rate cast, fronted by Eileen Faxas as widowed Adela, the apothecary trying to protect her family in the thick of the Cuban revolt against Spain in the late 1890s. Adela’s turbulent life is further complicated by the love of a yellow journalist American (grittily portrayed by Richard Baird) and her quietly tormented struggle with identity.
Becoming Cuba is also populated with monologue-rendering ghosts who impart wry and ironic commentary about the shifting sociopolitical world and humankind’s misguided impulses. These figures detract from what should be the center of the play: Adela’s relationship with her sister Martina (Maritxell Carrero), her rebel half-brother Manny (Steven Lone) and the would-be lover, Davis. Even so, Mark Pinter and Catalina Maynard make memorable ghosts.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.