‘Becoming Cuba’ at Huntington is a bit short on pizzazz

"Becoming Cuba" at Huntington Theatre Company. Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Strong individual performances in “Becoming Cuba” can’t rescue a slightly lackluster production.
Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Playwright Melinda Lopez freely lampoons the English language for its lack of passion in her latest work, “Becoming Cuba.”

Ironically, the Huntington Theatre Company’s playwright-in-residence fails to give Adela, one of the story’s main characters, enough of that Spanish flair to keep Act I from being long, slow and void of any real excitement. Though Act II fares somewhat better, the story suffers from predictable plotlines, clichés and the romantic entanglement of people who have zero chemistry.

Christina Pumariega’s Adela spends her days in the most beautiful apothecary you’ll ever see, while Cuban rebels battle Spain for their independence right outside her door. Her Spanish husband was killed by the rebels, one of whom is her Cuban half-brother Manny (Juan Javier Cardenas). The story is being chronicled by Davis, a bland American journalist who falls for Adela.

It’s fortunate that Manny becomes an integral player in the story, since Cardenas is the only one on stage with any real pizzazz. He tells the story of the end of baseball in Havana with palpable delight and later demonstrates incredible passion for and commitment to his cause, as the bloody battle hits close to home.

Rebecca Soler delivers a bit of sass as their wise-cracking young sister Martina, though also proves void of chemistry in her own romantic encounter.

Marianna Bassham is stunning as Fancy, the lonely wife of a Spanish lieutenant, whom Christopher Burns nicely imbues with a disturbing level of cruelty.

Lopez definitely has an interesting story to tell, but it needs time to develop. Like the lovely Cameron Anderson set on which it’s told, “Becoming Cuba” needs a little more grit and a lot more flavor to make it sizzle.

If you go
“Becoming Cuba”
Through May 3rd
Calderwood Pavilion, BCA 539 Tremont St., Boston
Starting at $25


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