As Octavio Solis’s sublimely crafted play Lydia opens, the Mexican American Flores family is struggling to cope with the aftermath of a terrible car accident. The daughter, Ceci (an excellent Caitlin Elizabeth Reilly), suffered permanent brain damage just a few days before an elaborate quinceañara to celebrate her 15th birthday.
CECI: I flew on wings of glass. My body como una bird racing with a moon on a breath of air. Flying out of range of pain, purpose, this thing we call Vida, soaring into the blueness of memory, closing my eyes for the thud to come.
Solis’s lyrical English-Spanglish language comes bursting with life from his deeply flawed characters. As Ceci is trapped in a disabled body, each member of her family is trapped by their own demons — anger, remorse, or alcohol. The intricate intensity of their family tragedy is gradually revealed over an entrancing and thoroughly engaging two acts.
Amaryllis is committed to presenting inclusive and accessible professional theater, and it’s hard to imagine them finding a more suitable vehicle for their mission. Lydia takes in such far-flung issues as immigrant assimilation, physical disability, sexual confusion, alcoholism, and domestic violence without ever feeling like an “issue play.”
The audience can hear Ceci’s deep inner life, with all the longing and hopes of every other teenage girl, but to the world she is a condemned to a almost-lifeless body, unable feed or dress herself or to communicate except in unintelligible moans. Her mother Rosa (Johanna Carden) labors on, taking care of Ceci as well as her two troubled sons: poet Misha (Mario Canavarro) and his elder brother Rene (Robert DaPonte), whose anger bubbles under the stifling demands of Latino machismo. The father, Claudio (Joe Cuzman), escapes into his headphones and drink or lumbers through the house with a threatening intensity. Cuzman and Carden especially shine as the parents, but the whole cast and dialect coach Jose Francisco Moreno deserve for a convincing portrayal of a immigrant family for whom the American Dream seems far away.
Into this dysfunction comes Lydia (Anjoli Santiago), a maid hired to look after Ceci. Her entrance sets the play’s action in motion, and the sustained and growing intensity is well realized by director Josette Todaro. The action never leaves the Flores’s working-class 1970s living room, but the realistic family dynamic is powerfully combined with magical lyricism of Ceci’s inner monologues. The result is a distinctly American family drama, one of the best new plays I’ve seen in some time.
Published by PhilaCulturati.