(Review) ‘El amor en los tiempos del cólera’ (Love in the Time of Cholera)

Repertorio Español presented the World Premiere of El amor en los tiempos del cólera (Love in the Time of Cholera), for the first time ever on stage on October 25, 2012.

About El amor en los tiempos del cólera

One of the famous novels of Nobel laureate Colombian author, Gabriel García Márquez, “El amor en los tiempos del cólera / Love in the Time of Cholera” is a story of unrequited love and how love both afflicts and drives us. The story is written in the literary style called “magical realism” in which magical elements blend with mundane elements of the real world. Though he did not originate the style, Gabriel García Márquez is known for popularizing it. The story has an equally powerful effect on those who are in love and those who wish they were. Oddly enough, if you ever fall in love with a Colombian, you might begin to wonder whether your love story is magical realism or real magic.

REVIEW: El amor en los tiempos del cólera

“El Amor en los tiempos del cólera / Love in the Time of Cholera” made its world premiere tonight at Repertorio Español, New York’s leading Spanish-language theatre. This wasn’t just the world premiere of a play. This is the first time this famous novel has ever been adapted to the stage. It was presented in Spanish with an excellent subtitle system to an audience of both Spanish and English speakers.

The story by the Nobel Prize-winning author from Colombia, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, tells the tale of a young man who falls so deeply in romantic love that it sickens and consumes his entire being. Over fifty years later, after a lifetime of adventures pursuing the many shadows of this love, he is finally able to master his illness, to consummate the love of his life and make it real as an old man.

The play takes on the enormous challenge of covering the interplay of ten characters over a half century relying on the skills of just four actors. “When Pep Muñoz plays the aged Juvenal Urbino, you can feel the pain in your back,” said New York Latin Culture Director Ximena Ojeda. “When Luis Carlos de La Lombana as Florentino Ariza speaks of his love, his presence overflows the stage just as Márquez wrote, ‘He looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.’ ”

We asked Silvia Sierra who played four different roles how she managed to change character so many times in two hours. She replied, “You just have to trust and give each character a different energy.” Zulema Clares remained in character as Fermina Daza throughout the play providing the backbone for the transformations of the other actors.

This adaptation was the third project of the team of playwright Caridad Svich and director José Zayas who also adapted “La casa de los espíritus” by Isabel Allende and “En el tiempo de las mariposas” by Julia Alvarez at Repertorio Español.

We asked Mr. Zayas why they chose to take on such a famous work. “We looked at stories that we read in high school and chose Márquez because he is such an important writer and this love story is one that everyone can connect with. It is a complex view of how love changes every few years. We chose to focus on the emotional complexity of the characters and do it with four actors, to show how love changes like a river.”

Ms. Svich added, “ ‘The House of the Spirits’ and ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ were big productions with lots of actors, costumes and staging. We wanted to present a different tone, to strip away everything but the performer and the space. We wanted to see what transformations a character can make.”

This is pure theatre for actors, theatre lovers and people who want to see this story told in a different way. Perhaps the unique character of the play has something to do with Repertorio Español itself, one of the few remaining repertory theatre companies in the United States. A repertory theater is a company of actors that rotates productions so you get to see the same artists working in different pieces over time. Associate Producer, José Antonio Cruz, explained that while many theatre companies still carry the repertory name, the only other true repertory theatre in New York is the Metropolitan Opera.

We asked Mr. Cruz what was the biggest challenge in producing this play. “We always want to find ways to surprise the audience and exceed its expectations in a unique way. Running it with four actors made it theatre. It was a book, was a movie, and now we made it a play.”

Interestingly Márquez, a man of many words, himself has said that the secret of love is not in words. This wasn’t a book filled with the lush prose of Márquez. It wasn’t a film with gorgeous costumes and a period set. It was pure theater that rested entirely on the shoulders of a writer, director and the ability of four amazing actors to transform themselves right before your eyes. If you love theatre, in any language, go see “El Amor en los tiempos del cólera / Love in the Time of Cholera” at Repertorio Español.

Repertorio Español
138 E 27th St (between Third & Lexington)
(212) 889-2850

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