At a time when our nation’s response to immigrants and refugees is hotly debated, Theater J opens its 2017-2018 season with the powerful and poetic Sotto Voce by Nilo Cruz. Sotto Voce, which is set in motion by the ill-fated 1939 trip of the S.S. St. Louis, runs October 3-29.
Cruz’s lyrical and romantic play deals with the separation of a man and a woman when the man’s expected arrival in Havana aboard the ship is thwarted by the Cuban government. Turned away from the U.S. as well, the ship and its mostly Jewish refugees return to Europe, where many perish in the Holocaust. The ensuing heartbreak causes ripple effects through the lives of Sotto Voce’s characters–mysteries, revelations, an old romance relived as a new one blossoms.
Theater J’s Artistic Director, Adam Immerwahr, believes the play “is a modern day masterpiece, pure stage poetry. It’s a completely unforgettable love story, full of imagination and surprise. I chose this play not only because of resonances with our current immigration debates, but also because it’s one of the most beautiful plays I’ve ever read.” José Carrasquillo, a Theater J Associate Artist for 2017-18, will direct. Immerwahr praises Carrasquillo as “an expert in magical realism” whose work on Sotto Voce promises to be “utterly exquisite.”
Playwright Nilo Cruz won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for his play Anna in the Tropics. Born in Cuba, Cruz came to Miami with his family in 1970 as a 10 year-old child and brings his personal experience as a refugee to Sotto Voce. In a 2014 interview in The Miami Herald, Cruz discusses looking back on that particular moment in Jewish history: “Memory is very important for the Jewish people, and I thought I had to write a play about that permanence of memory.”
Among Cruz’s plays are Beauty of the Father (2006), The Color of Desire (2010), Hurricane (2010) and Bathing in Moonlight (2016). His plays have been produced at New York’s Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Pasadena Playhouse, McCarter Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and South Coast Repertory, among others.
Carrasquillo’s previous Theater J credits include The Body of an American and After the Fall. At GALA Hispanic Theater he is directing Don Juan Tenorio and has also directed Cruz’s Anna in the Tropics, among others. The cast includes Brigid Cleary, Andrés C. Talero and Desiree Marie Velez.
HIAS, the world’s oldest, and only Jewish, global refugee agency is working in association with Theater J on this production. HIAS’s president and CEO, Mark Hetfield says: “America turned its back on the refugees on the St. Louis 78 years ago. Like then, now is a moment when the United States should be doing more, not less, to protect refugees. Jewish communities around the country have spoken out about the importance of welcoming today’s refugees, in large part because we too know what it is like to flee and seek safety and welcome.” Hetfield will lead a discussion on October 15 following the 2:00 PM matinee.
Another post-performance event will be October 22, following the 2:00 PM matinee. Scott Miller, a historian at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and director José Carrasquillo will discuss “Telling the Story: The Intersection of Art and History,” a conversation about what happens when history and art – and the professionals behind both – come together to show the human consequences of abstract policy.
To purchase tickets, go to www.theaterj.org or call the box office at 202-777-3210. Single ticket prices range from $39-$69. Discount ticket packages are available for four or more plays in Theater J’s 2017-2018 season. Following Sotto Voce will be The Last Night of Ballyhoo by Alfred Uhry, running November 29-December 31.