AT GROVE BERTH, RAFTERS’ PASSAGE IS STILL MOVING

From The Miami Herald
Date: October 5, 1996
Author: CHRISTINE DOLEN

Passage, Loretta Greco’s moving and deeply felt play about Cuban rafters who risked life itself for freedom, has found a brief new berth at Miami’s Coconut Grove Playhouse, where it runs through Sunday.

The play’s journey from the tiny, 49-seat Area Stage on Miami Beach to the comparatively vast expanse of the Grove has been a lengthy one — spanning almost six months, involving much shaping of the piece’s stories, adding or changing cast members, earning Passage an incredibly warm embrace from Miami’s Cuban exile community. Drawn from Greco’s interviews with dozens of Cubans in exile and some still in Cuba, this theater-of-testimony is — after all — a story that so many in the play’s audiences have lived.

Moved to the Grove to benefit Facts About Cuban Exiles (FACE) and the Guantanamo Refugee Assistance Project (GRASP), Passage has been physically broadened, with J.C. Rodriguez adapting James Faerron’s artfully run-down set. Two musicians have been added, as have several actors. And since Passage originally opened at Area, the gifted Chaz Mena has assumed the part originated by Carlos Orizondo.

Director John Rodaz has, necessarily, reworked his staging for the Grove’s much broader stage. Time and fine-tuning have tightened the piece, and several performances have grown stronger. Yet curiously, given all the tinkering, most of the flaws and virtues evident in Passage last May remain.

Understand, if you haven’t seen Passage and have a desire to understand what hundreds of thousands in South Florida have endured — or if you’re one of those who endured it — Passage will make that pain, hope, spirit and fear vividly real.

You won’t soon forget Emiliano Diez, as a veteran of Brigade 2506, voicing his frustration at taking in tiny children at Stock Island. You’ll hold your breath as Nattacha Amador tells a mother’s story, of watching a huge shark shadowing the spot where her son sat on a raft, and of the vision of a Chinese man who guided those rafters to safety. You will exult right along with Iris Delgado as she shares a young girl’s tale of plunging into the ocean clad in a black lace dress and satin shoes. And, far more than before, you will feel tears welling as Mena and Delgado tell the story of rafter Eddy Gonzalez, forced to leave his wife and sick baby behind in Cuba.

Still, Passage is political theater that could benefit from broadening of the points of view it represents. It needs more honing, more shaping, stronger focus in some of its stories. You trust that Greco, an astute and gifted ex-Miamian, will achieve that before Passage finds its next berth.

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