Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Two Sisters and a Piano

Nilo Cruz
Riverside Studios
(2003)

It is remarkable that Nilo Cruz is unknown in United Kingdom. He is a Cuban American playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize earlier this year for his play Anna in the Tropics.

Now, Out of the Box Productions has brought his play Two Sisters and a Piano, set at a time of world transition in 1991, to London for its European premiere.

Sophie (Eva Alexandra) and her older sister (Catalina Botello as Maria Celia) are confined to their house in Cuba having been released from prison. Maria Celia is a writer who was injudicious enough to criticise the Government. Her husband is in exile hoping to bring them to join him in Sweden.

Their life is lonely with only the family piano that Sophie plays for company. Things change a little when they have two male visitors. One, a piano tuner flits in and out of the play almost without "touching the edges". Sophie briefly falls for him but he is never seen again.

The other character is far more interesting, an army lieutenant who risks his career to pursue his love for Maria Celia.

In hands of star actor but debutante director, Paola Dionosotti, there is never a great feel for location despite Nick Barnes spare set design. This play could as easily have taken place in Czechoslovakia or South Africa as Castro's Cuba.

While the relationships and politics engage to an extent, this is a somewhat staid and bloodless production. None of the actors show the requisite passion for each other or the issues that they would seemingly be willing die for.

On this showing, Nilo Cruz is a playwright worth following. It is to be hoped that far more of his work will be seen in the United Kingdom. That will give a better opportunity to assess his talent than this version of his play about unrequited love.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher