A Park in Our House
The better the characters can speak in A Park in Our House, the less likely they are to speak to us. The precocious Cuban bobby-soxer (Munoz) who gushes endlessly about how she can’t wait for her family to be visited by a Russian scientist, for example, generally leaves us cold. But when the starchy Russki (the always-welcome Baker) shows up and barely spits out a broken sentence, our hearts melt a bit. As the family matriarch (Alvarez) waxes poetic about how to cure her mute son, we feel little. But when the speechless tyke tries desperately to get the adults’ attention—and young Bubba Weiler is guilelessly good—we sit straight up.
Such is the rate of verbal currency in Cruz’s play about a family living under the Castro regime in 1970. (Fidel’s ironclad tyranny stands as the metaphor for this uptight clan’s self-imposed sexual repression.) Cruz, a Pulitzer winner for Anna in the Tropics, has been duly praised for the hothouse poetry of his dialogue, and justly criticized for those same climbing, flowering vines of verse obscuring his drama. Here the playwright stretches his tightrope so tautly in act one—sexual tension between a teenage daughter and a foreign physicist, a suicidal family member whose dreams were crushed by communism—that we can’t wait to see his characters fall from it. Unfortunately, they fall instead because Cruz lets the rope sag in the second act, supplanting speeches (albeit beautiful) for drama. Zacek’s direction is always capable, but more proper than passionate, and more exoticized than authentically exotic. If only Cruz’s play scorched like his poetry does, perhaps that could have been avoided.