Home > Broadway Buzz > Show Reviews > Cloud Tectonics September 4 , 2006
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Cloud Tectonics
by Rob Kendt

Photo by Amelie Chabannes
Frederique Nahmani & Julio Rivera
in Cloud Tectonics
José Rivera's Cloud Tectonics is a lyrical if overwritten meditation on love, time and the city of Los Angeles. But you wouldn't know it from Out of Line Productions' rickety new revival at the Culture Project, which comes off like a so-so Twilight Zone spec script peppered with long monologues. Like the recent Broadway production of Three Days of Rain, this scrappy rendition of Cloud Tectonics manages to fumble one of the better three-character plays of the 1990s, and mainly due to the weakness of its female lead.

Inspired as much by magical realism as by the L.A. of the '90s—a time when earthquakes, floods, fires, riots and the O.J. trial made the place seem even more apocalyptic than usual—Cloud Tectonics starts with a premise that's pure Serling: On a dark and stormy night, a mysterious pregnant hitchhiker with no place to go is picked up by a sympathetic guy who takes her, with some trepidation, to his place for the night. He doesn't intend any monkey business, but their names mark these two for some kind of fateful embrace: Aníbal de la Luna (Luis Vega) and Celestina de la Sol (Frederique Nahmani).

In a meet-cute romantic comedy, her line, "I don't keep time—time and I don't hang out together," would be the confession of a lovable ditz. Here it's a statement of fact, as Aníbal finds that all his clocks have stopped (though not, oddly, his microwave's timer) and his visitor doesn't seem to know or care how long she's been carrying her child.

Story continues below

The plot doesn't so much thicken as get stranger, wobbling uneasily between exposition and enigma. Perhaps taking a cue from Celestina's time-warping, Rivera hasn't shaped the play so much as assembled it. Director James Phillip Gates's leaden pacing doesn't do the episodic writing any favors, though nothing can take the zing out of one lovely left turn: After Aníbal bares his soul in an extraordinary, soul-searching soliloquy about his sexual history, an unperturbed Celestina approaches and asks, "Would you rub my feet?"

Photo by Amelie Chabannes
Julio Rivera & Luis Vega
in Cloud Tectonics
Casey Smith's bland beige set is a downer, neither convincingly kitchen-sink real nor particularly magical until the minor coup de theatre that sets up the ending. Here Rivera transcends some of his storytelling dead-ends and turns this fable about timelessness into a moving, quasi-theological reverie that should resonate devastatingly with anyone who's ever been in love, or loved, or wondered about the possibility of eternity and the divine (did I catch everyone there?). What lover or parent hasn't thought, What if I could know my beloved through every phase of his or her life? Is time logged in a relationship the true measure of love, or is the mere yearning for such impossibly total connection the closest we get?

Vega makes Aníbal's befuddled fascination thoroughly involving, and he delivers his soliloquys with breathtaking specificity and wonder. But he can't strike a spark with the diffident Nahmani, whose negative presence sucks life from the stage the way Celestina is supposed to suck time from her immediate environs. Vega does spring to invigorating attention opposite Julio Rivera, as his jarhead military brother Nelson, who makes a brief, scene-stealing surprise visit.

Alas, there are few such jolts in this becalmed, persistently unstormy Cloud Tectonics. Near the end Aníbal recalls his night with Celestina as one that had "that dream feeling." This show has more of that sleepy feeling.

Cloud Tectonics
By José Rivera
Directed by James Phillip Gates
At the Culture Project

Print This Story / Send the Story to a Friend / 7/18/2006 6:21:00 PM


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