), which opened last night at the Arsht Center
as part of the International Hispanic Theatre Festival
, is a tightly acted play that wants to tug at its audience's heart, but ultimately misses the mark.
That's no fault of the fine cast, led by the fiery Richard Viquiera (who also directed Cuerdas
), who plays middle brother Paul with tortured eyes and fine comedic timing. And the premise is promising enough: Three brothers agree to meet at an airport and take a trip to watch their father -- who abandoned them as children and is now a world famous tightrope walker -- put on his farewell performance.
But the play, as entertaining and well acted as it is, fails to fully connect on an emotional level thanks mainly to an uneven script that doesn't seem to know when to hit its stride.
Written by Barbara Colio, Cuerdas
, (which comes from Mexico and is performed mostly in Spanish) is by all accounts a road trip story. The three brothers reconnect on their journey through various experiences, mostly humorous, and mainly by reminiscing about their childhood and catching up with the current state of their lives.
Elder brother Peter (Carlos Corona), who is headstrong and grounded, is expected to become a new father. Little brother Prince (Felipe Cervera), who is independent and intractable, shares that his wife has been diagnosed with cancer. And then there's Paul, who is all heart with his motor mouth and emotional outbursts.
The very funny and versatile Angel Enciso plays all the other characters in the story, such as a member of airport security, a flight attendant, and a lounge singer. Enciso, who is dressed in all black, also follows the three men throughout the play, waving a fluttering crimson dance ribbon around them.
The ribbon (or string) is clearly a symbol for everything encompassing their lives, good or bad. And Enciso's tireless mastery of the dance ribbon is a highlight of the production.
On their trip to see their father, the men encounter trouble at a screening checkpoint, where they are arrested by airport security after a squabble between them turns physical. They also hit some nasty turbulence during their flight, and they even try tightrope walking after getting hammered at a bar.
These moments lend to fine physical comedic performances and humorous moments, with the actors having no other props at their disposal but suitcases against a black backdrop.
But Cuerdas doesn't know when to stop being humorous so it can find its heart. The play is separated by three soliloquies performed by each brother, as they recount their last memory of their father just before he left, when he was practicing his tightrope routine by the lake in the woods near their childhood home.
It's during these soliloquies that the story delves into deeper levels, as each man bears his soul and tries to cope with his own reason for agreeing to taking this trip. The gist of this excursion is, of course, that these are three grown men with serious abandonment issues.
Their father, who deserted them as children and was distant even when he was around, has suddenly resurfaced and sent a note for them to come watch him perform one last tightrope walk. But the script never quite exploits or explores that premise to its fullest potential.
Catch an encore performance of
Cuerdas tonight at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Show starts at 5 p.m. Tickets cost $29 ($24 for seniors and students). Call 305-949-6722 or visit arshtcenter.org
1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL