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Theater Review: "Cloud Tectonics"

“Cloud Tectonics: plays through February 25, 2018 at New Village Arts, 2787 State Street, Carlsbad.
Photo credit:
Daren Scott

In a college class (eons ago), I defined time as an artificial construct that allows us to keep events in order. I thought it a pretty good (if straight-ahead) definition, and so did the prof. 

But it took a poetic sensibility like playwright José Rivera to create “Cloud Tectonics,” a whole play about time, its deeper meanings and its effects on people and the universe. 

It blew me away, and I think you’ll like it too. It plays through Feb. 25 at New Village Arts in Carlsbad.

When Aníbal de la Luna (José Balistrieri) rescues the very pregnant Celestina del Sol (Nadia Guevara) from a drenching rain (this is “the storm of the century” that threatens to destroy the city) at an L.A. bus stop, he little expects this act of kindness to change his life. But when she says she has nowhere to go and he offers her a place to stay for the night, it’s the beginning of an adventure for both that will combine love and magical realism in a delightful story that transcends time and space.

Over quesadillas and confusing conversation, Aníbal realizes that Celestina has no concept of time. She looks 25, but says she’s 54 and has been pregnant for two years, and doesn’t know when she’s due. And when Aníbal realizes that all the clocks in his house have stopped working, he begins to wonder just what kind of magic Celestina has. But he’s happy to find that she seems grounded enough in human emotion to let him kiss her.

When Aníbal’s soldier brother Nelson appears, the two engage in brotherly roughhousing. But Nelson is lonely, and when he sees Celestina, vows to return and marry her when his tour of duty ends.

That these characters’ names – Sol, Luna, Celestina – have astronomical significance is no accident. Celestina, it seems, is some sort of goddess.

Herbert Siguenza, a familiar face on local stages, shows assurance in his directorial debut, using Spanish poetry and music to accompany Rivera’s lyrical and sexy script.

Nadia Guevara is winning as Celestina, who may not exactly understand her celestial role but knows what she wants.

Jose Balistrieri’s Aníbal plays Celestina’s savior and lover with an acceptance and equanimity unusual among mortals. But as he puts it, “What better way to  respond to a miracle than to fall in love with it?”

Javier Guerrero is convincing as the lonely soldier who says he’s finally met “the woman of my dreams.”

Christopher Scott Murillo’s set design offers a bit of a strange look as well, with a drippy bus stop (complete with water), and Aníbal’s bachelor pad, with huge water jugs, umbrellas and a massive, elevated bed. Paul Canaletti Jr. adds some nice atmospheric lighting.

Composer/sound designer Mark Spiro and Blake McCarty’s projections add portentous sounds and scary photos of the storm of the century, and Carmen Amon contributes appropriate costumes.

The play’s title refers to the way clouds are formed and reformed, a scientific puzzle as mysterious as the genesis of love between humans.

It all adds up to a fascinating, mystical experience.

The details

“Cloud Tectonics: plays through February 25, 2018 at New Village Arts, 2787 State Street, Carlsbad.

Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (760) 443-3245 or www.newvillagearts.org