Road Through Heaven
On May 18, New Theater opened their production of the world premiere of "Road Through Heaven" at the Roxy Performing Arts Center in Miami.
This play was written by Ricky J. Martinez, artistic director of New Theater and concerns a love triangle on an unnamed Caribbean island. The story follows young poet Jesus, the married couple with whom he lives and is in a sexual relationship with, Dolores and Victor, and a young girl, Maria, who is their neighbor.
The performances in this production are first-class from every cast member. Martinez takes on the role of Victor and gives a fine performance as the Island laborer coming to terms with his bisexuality. Javier Cabrera also stands out as the young poet, Jesus, who falls in love too easily.
Evelyn Perez puts in an emotional performance as Dolores and Julissa Calderon stands out as the aspiring actress, Maria. Child actors David A. Gonzalez and Enzo Roque portray a small role in the production on alternate evenings.
The script is interesting, with several unique plot twists, but suffers from verbosity and occasional moments of pretentiousness, particularly in the second scene. The story also contains references to Santa Ria and the Occult which, to the uninitiated, seem confusing. This production also included voiceovers by child actor Julian Gorelick which did not seem to add much to the performance and were occasionally unintelligible. It is not a bad script, by any means but it is not a great script yet.
Small cast shows are very difficult to pull off. One of the things that is a hallmark of the great four actors shows such as Albee’s "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" is the immediacy of the timeline of the drama with the entire action of the play taking place over a few hours. "Road To Heaven" however, takes place over the course of several months and several outside characters are mentioned yet never seen which occasionally leaves the audience wondering what actually went on.
An example of this is Dolores involvement with the island witches. It is talked about frequently but never fully explained. At the end of the play the audience learns of a curse that was her motivation for her actions, but if it had been explained and possibly explored earlier, it might have provided more clarity to the audiences.
The thing that is the most detrimental to this production of "Road to Heaven" is the decision by set designer Amanda Sparhawk to put the audience on stage with the actors. Theater Four at the Roxy is a small proscenium space with approximately 200 seats. By putting the audience on stage and blocking off the traditional audience area, this reduces the maximum audience capacity to around 30 patrons per show.
The seats provided for the audience were plastic folding chairs and were very uncomfortable for the two-hour performance. For some types of theater, this kind of intimacy can enhance the audience experience, but for this production it was simply uncomfortable and, in this reviewers opinion, caused a disconnect between the audience and the actors performing. As a front row patron, I spent more time afraid that my long legs might actually trip one of the actors than I did actually caring about their emotional plight. This reviewer overheard several audience members discussing the seating in dismay.
This particular play does not need the audience to be on stage with the actors, it could have very easily been presented in the proscenium and would have most likely been more effective and certainly would have been more comfortable for both the audience and the cast.
These flaws aside, "Road Through Heaven" is still an enjoyable and well done piece of theater. New Theater continues their high artistic standards in their new space at the Roxy Performing Arts Center.