Love in the Time of Cholera
nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
October 17, 2012
A scene from Love in the Time of Cholera | Michael Palma
It's hard to believe that this is the first theatrical adaptation of the charming novel by Colombian Nobel Prize Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If you would like to see something of the genre labelled "Magic Realism" on its feet, in the original language (with English subtitles in every seat), you should see what playwright Caridad Svich and Repertorio Espanol have done.
The poetry and occasional singing and dancing of Gabriel Marquez's work are delivered by four strong actors who play the entire cast of flawed characters in a story which covers 50 years.
Somewhere in Colombia (possibly in Cartagena), the story starts near the end. Fermina Diaz (Zulema Clares) has been married for some time to handsome, order-obsessed doctor Juvenal Urbino (Pep Munoz). They have gotten used to each other, but their personalities clash a little bit. Fermina must put up with the eggplant dishes that Juvenal's mother liked, as well as a high-maintenance parrot; she likes neither. The parrot gets out of his cage and Juvenal climbs a tree in pursuit but falls to his death. At this point, Fermina is recalling her life with Urbino when she is approached by the much more romantic and unrestrained Florentino Ariza (Luis Carlos de la Lombana), who has loved her from afar for quite some time.
We then get to see the choices these characters have made which led to this moment. A long time ago, Fermina was ill with what might have been cholera. Doctor Urbino made a house call, and being the first man to tenderly examine his patient's body, charmed her. They courted and married quickly, saw Europe together, and from their innocent beginning grew apart. Simultaneously, Florentino is living with his mother (Silvia Sierra) and living the life of a Don Juan. He keeps a journal to remind him of his more than six hundred female conquests, and believes this lifestyle brings him spiritually closer to Fermina. Their occasional contact is in secret. Juvenal also realizes what passion is, but he does not feel it for Fermina. The candid awkwardness of these changes, as well as Fermina's helplessness when Juvenal dies, are pleasantly full of deep contradictions. The only question is, will Fermina and Florentino's personalities meet in the middle at the end?
As befits Garcia Marquez's writing, even in sadness the characters inhabit a colorful, cheery South American world. Arnolfo Maldonado's set consists of red panels, a white metal frame, two settees, and plenty of room to stroll, dance, dance around problems, make love, and argue. The warmth of all of the actors is really quite amazing. This was my first Spanish-language play, and I really enjoyed the experience. I congratulate Caridad Svich on creating such a balanced adaptation, and Director Jose Zayas for bringing so many different sides of the characters during their journey. Natalie Lomonte's choreography is also highly enjoyable.