By Bill Hirschman
This is not a traditional review because we saw the world premiere of Nilo Cruz’s latest play Hotel Desiderium at its fifth sold-out performance Nov. 21 at Arca Images, that late because it was a very busy week of theater openings across the region.
But you can’t catch any future performances in the run because there aren’t any.
After weeks of rehearsal, the latest offering from the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright-director could not negotiate more than four days of performances at the tightly-scheduled Miami-Dade County Auditorium where Arca Images is based.
“We are very disappointed,” Cruz said just before that last performance.
But Hotel Desiderium was a classic example of Cruz’s personal brand of magical realism that he has luxuriated in with other works – a mixture of passion, loss, sex and yet a feeling of life evolving and moving forward with a pronounced sense of quirkiness.
The one-act play resonates with the kind of romantic fantasy that French playwrights Jean Giraudoux and Jean Anouilh pioneered in the 1940s and 1950s, but Cruz has infused it with an internationally multi-cultural ambiance flavor that pervades 21st Century Miami.
The wry tale is set in a Miami Beach hotel during 2018 Art Basel. At the center of this ensemble work is lovely, vibrant but lonely Spanish artist Lucienne who has nearly lost all of her sight (a radiant Hannia Guillén). She arrives with her understandably but suffocatingly protective mother, an art dealer Magda (Anna Silvetti). Lucienne hooks up romantically and simultaneously with Sunol (Gonzalo Trigueros), an undocumented Romani would-be actor and currently working as a low-level backdoor employee at the hotel, and also with Dante (Leo Oliva), an outré artist who is losing slowly his sight as well. Meanwhile, Magda is being courted by Fedor (Serafin Falcón) a handsome middle-age hotelier. Helping everyone in their romantic pursuits is the hotel maid Mikaela (Alejondra Corchado).
The characters intersect and interact in swirling combinations during which they, as the program says, “lose sight of reality when they are blinded by the miracle of an unpredictable love.”
Cruz’s vision furthered in the set design by Nobarte (Jorge Noa and Pedro Balmaseda) notable for a few pieces of stylish furniture and long flowing diaphanous drapes to create the hotel lobby, a nightclub, a bedroom and other environments. Even more memorable are the outlandish costumes by Michiko Kitayama Skinner that are the kind of cutting-edge South Beach designs you might find on Project Runway.
The work was performed in English with Spanish translation through headphones.
Cruz is nationally known as the first Latino to win the Pulitzer for Drama for Anna in the Tropics, which was commissioned and premiered at New Theatre in Miami in 2002 and which played on Broadway. As a playwright, educator, screenwriter and librettist for classical works, he has remained busy since then, often writing and directing works debuting at Arca such as 2014’s Hurricane. He serves as the artistic director for the bilingual Arca Images headed by Executive Producing Director Alexa Kuve.
Cruz has another world premiere on Arca’s schedule, “Kisses Through the Glass,” slated for July 2022, with a run twice as long.