A play about love and marriage with FST's Boleros for the Disenchanted.
By Kay Kipling
With Valentine’s Day this month, it’s an auspicious time for Florida Studio Theatre to present Jose Rivera’s Boleros for the Disenchanted, a play about a couple told in scenes set 39 years apart.
That doesn’t mean Boleros is exactly a big happy Valentine. Although it is romantic, it is also real in its telling of what happens over the course of a long marriage. (Hint: It’s not all good.)
Boleros starts out on the island of Puerto Rico in 1953, in the small town of Miraflores. (And flores, or flowers, are evident everywhere, in the set decoration and in the actresses’ dresses, making for a pretty picture to look at.) There the young and innocent Flora, another flower (Rainbow Dickerson), is brooding about the gossip she’s heard regarding her fiancé, Manuelo (David Perez-Ribada), and other girls. She loves him intensely, but that intensity is matched with a need for him to be completely faithful, which he insists is just not in a man’s nature.
Marina Re, Damian Buzzerio and Rainbow Dickerson in FST’s Boleros for the Disenchanted.
Flora’s parents (Marina Re and Damian Buzzerio) are pretty quick to anger over the matter, too. When Flora decides to definitely break off her engagement, they send her for a trip to visit her more worldly cousin (Stacie Lents), in hopes she’ll get over her broken heart. And she does eventually—helped along by a chance meeting with a young man in uniform, Eusebio (Carlos Alberto Valencia), whose promises of love lure her into trusting again.
The second half of the play takes us to a small town in Alabama in 1992, where we learn what has happened to that young, lovely couple over the years—children, hardship, health problems and more. Their long marriage has, Flora believes, provided them with the wisdom and experience to help another young couple on the verge of matrimony decide whether they’re really ready for that commitment. Here Re and Buzzerio take on the roles of the older Flora and Eusebio, and they continue to effectively deliver the balance of laughter and tears that Rivera packs into his work.
Some of the action is very funny indeed, as in an uproarious “deathbed” scene when Eusebio, convinced he’s going to die, is ministered to by a priest whose graphic talk of “union,” both sexual and religious, unsettles both Flora and the nurse attending Eusebio. And Rivera and the FST cast successfully switch gears when Flora’s anger at Eusebio’s last confession erupts—and yet again in the final scene, which is bound to draw tears from many watchers.
In general, Rivera writes poetically and yet earthily (although some of the interaction with the young couple in the second act feels a bit talky and forced). But he manages that essential feat for a playwright, of bringing us unique and highly individual characters in a particular place and time that, no matter the audience’s backgrounds, we can nevertheless all relate to. It’s a play about love and marriage and the whole damn thing that’s worth seeing.
Boleros for the Disenchanted continues through April 3 on FST’s mainstage; call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.