New York City Theater
Culture Project, Manhattan
“Cloud Tectonics” is a strange, haunting piece, the effects of which linger on long after one leaves the theater. One puzzles over the play’s meaning, searching for its theme and plot.
In point of fact there is no plot, no specific story that moves forward in time. But time, its essence and nature, is what this play is all about. Playwright Jose Rivera plays fast and loose with this idea, stopping the clocks as his three characters happen to collide in their particular life journeys one magical night.
Two brothers, Anibal and Nelson, are both very taken with Celestina, a young and pregnant woman (or at least she appears to be young). Nelson, a soldier, stays briefly, returning to his war-time assignment. Anibal remains in his home with the girl for a few minutes—or months—or years. Time is on hold. It is only when Nelson returns (years later) that we know time has passed outside Anibal’s home. Anibal, like Rip van Winkle, has missed a chunk of the real world. He has met a woman who lives in another dimension. Understandably, he is intrigued, but left in a state of thorough confusion.
As indeed, so is the audience. There are certainly poetic images and provocative ideas. Lines such as “stars being scraped across the sky” resonate beautifully. Rivera (a Puerto Rican-born writer) has dabbled with the magic realism so prevalent in Latin American writing. In looking at modern-day physics, and man’s existential place in the universe, he creates striking lines scattered throughout the piece.
Moreover, the three players, under James Phillip Gates’ sensitive direction—Luis Vega, Julio Rivera, and Frederique Nahmani—give very strong performances, making each character believable in unbelievable circumstances.
But has Jose Rivera written a play? Not if one seeks a story with clear-cut plot and resolution.
-- Irene Backalenick
July 17, 2006