A Bicycle Country
The Miracle Theatre
Through May 11

Three Cubans set out on a raft for America to find freedom from the persecution of their native land, and the emotional turmoil of the truly oppressed meets the high suspense of a risky ocean adventure. It is a premise with enough potency to outweigh its utter lack of novelty, if delivered by the right hands.

At The Miracle Theater, plays are usually in good hands, and A Bicycle Country is no exception. Director Andres Alcala has good hands. He has staged a beautiful production. He moves his three actors around with ease and grace, making the play's two tiny, claustrophobic set pieces (a room the friends occupy in Cuba and the raft itself) seem almost spacious. Alcala's actors also have good hands. All three are stellar: Kyra Zagorsky is the fiery, gorgeous Ines, who helps nurse an older man, Julio, back from a stroke, then convinces him to help her with her plan to flee Cuba. Doug Richardson is that Julio, a broken man who finds new life through the passion of Ines, and Antonio Sonera is PePe, an unbroken, younger man, full of life, who also helps Julio, but challenges him as well, ultimately posing as a threat to the love that develops between him and Ines.

The only hands that smell a bit fishy here are the playwright's. Nilo Cruz's script undermines his can't-fail premise with grenades of underdeveloped story elements, such as the romance between Julio and Ines. The entire first act unfolds with no tension or chemistry between these two characters and then suddenly, they are kissing. Later, on the raft, this romance becomes a focal point for conflict, but since it lacks any substance, the jealousy and desire it induces are mere shells of real feeling.

Cruz also runs into trouble with the character of PePe, who, despite Sonera's fine performance, seems to serve no purpose except to make Julio mad with envy once the three are on the raft. PePe suffers no internal conflict and does not change as the play progresses. Cruz tries to give him some life with a ridiculously long speech near the end, but it is full of the jibbering jibe of the insane and thus offers no insight into who or what PePe is supposed to be.

Sadly, speeches like PePe's pepper the second half of this show, spouting from the mouths of all three characters; burying the underdeveloped relationship between Julio and Ines in a landslide of boring lunatic soliloquies. Madness on the high seas has been done to death, and this feeble effort by Cruz doesn't begin to bring it back to life.