If any Piccolo play deserves a packed house, it’s this one

PURE creates a world that’s a magnet for romantics

Cloud Tectonics is the perfect coda to PURE Theatre’s fourth season, one where the focus has been on acting above all else. Instead of trying to run the show, light it, direct it, star in it, and make the coffee, company founders Rodney Rogers and Sharon Graci vowed to develop their ensemble and share the production load in a more even manner so they could get on with the business of acting. For this play they’re working with New York-based director May Adrales, who pushes the actors in fascinating new ways.
The result is an enthralling, balanced mix of traditional PURE elements (minimal sets, a small cast, lyrical dialogue) and a sense that the thespians are exploring new territory. Graci has to hit a wide range of emotions as Celestina del Sol, a mighty strange Latina who looks like she’s in her mid-20s but professes to be 56. She’s hitching in a rainstick-simulated deluge when she meets the kindly Anibal de la Luna (Rogers on top form), a Puerto Rican luggage loader at LAX. He takes her home and she weirds him out with talk of her two-year-long pregnancy; she’s just the kind of girl who loses track of time easily.
Just as Anibal starts to get used to Celestina, his brother Nelson turns up. Nelson is a soldier on his way to Death Valley to report to a superior. As soon as he hears about Celestina, he starts to become infatuated with her. Rogers’ subtle responses to his brother’s intrusion contrast with Graci’s big, wide-eyed pregnant character. Graci doesn’t feel the need for Celestina to be likeable — she can be overwhelming at times — but she’s always sympathetic.
As the soldier, Matt Bivins rapidly convinces us that Nelson is Anibal’s brother. His Puerto Rican accent takes a while to solidify and he trips over a couple of his lines, but he sells the character’s remarkably sudden obsession with Celestina very well.
Throughout Jose Rivera’s play, flights of romantic fancy are juxtaposed with the practicalities of real life: jobs, commitments, paying the bills. When Celestina talks about the indefinable qualities of time (does it have a color? A place of origin? A sentience?) she might as well be speaking of love. Michael Moran plays Spanish guitar softly in a corner; sound effects are banished to the outside world beyond the stage. The effect for the audience is one of isolation from the rat race, inclusion in the action, and a warm fuzzy feeling at the end of the show.
Cloud Tectonics is highly recommended for dreamers, romantics, and anyone who wants to escape time’s bonds for an hour or so.

Cloud Tectonics • Piccolo Spoleto’s Theatre Series • $20 • (1 hour 20 min.) • May 29, 31, June 3 at 6 p.m., May 30, June 1, 2 at 9 p.m. • PURE Theatre at The Cigar Factory, 701 East Bay St. • 554-6060