Jose Rivera once said, "We are in a perpetual state of what is possible. Things don't ever actually become ... they are always in a state of becoming." In his theory of relativity, Einstein observed that everything moves relative to everything else, and that there are no absolute frames of reference. He also made clear that space and time are inherently warped (by gravity), and that our perceptions of space and time are completely subjective (because there are no absolute frames of reference). In Cloud Tectonics, Rivera ties the possibility of subjective space-time to love and all its implications.
Rivera studied with Gabriel Garcia-Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera), an influence readily apparent in this play. Time is similarly indeterminate; the chronology and the story wrap around each other, become knotted, slow down, speed up, in lush, elliptical language. Cloud Tectonics is a dreamy exploration of the nature of love and time. As Anibal puts it, "...love sometimes does that to you. It alters the physics around you in some way: changing the speed of light and the shape of space and how you experience time."
And like those in Garcia-Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, the characters in Cloud Tectonics cannot get the hang of time. One night during a torrential rainstorm in L.A., Anibal de la Luna picks up a pregnant hitchhiker. Celestina del Sol is chronologically cursed somehow. She stops clocks, can't experience linear time, doesn't know how old she is, and warps the one night with Anibal into two years. "Sometimes there is no time, just an endless now," she says. Indeed, she and Anibal would have become lost in their own world, literally, were it not for the intrusion of Anibal's gung-ho Army brother, Nelson. He brings Anibal back to "reality," and Celestina flees. When she finds Anibal 40 years later, she is still young, her baby is still a newborn, but the world has changed drastically around her.
It's a startling work; Rivera has managed to write a play full of philosophical musings without its sounding pretentious or tentative, and what's more, he makes some valuable insights. More importantly, Actors of the World's production upheld the integrity of the play. The actors (Isabela Mendez, Arnold Corkill, and Marco Aponte) showed themselves to be talented newcomers, especially Mendez, who brought a special luminosity to her character. The set and costumes were simple but visually effective, as was the direction by Matilda Corral. The cast did a great job with the occasionally dense dialog; they only needed to speed up the pace a bit, as it dragged at times.
Overall, Cloud Tectonics is a really intriguing play, and it's a shame this production didn't have a longer run. As Anibal puts it, "What better way to respond to a miracle than to fall in love with it?"
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Copyright 2003 Jenny Sandman