Miami's Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, recently announced as the 2014 winner of the Greenfield Prize, is in New York at the moment, working hard on the world premiere of his newest play, Sotto Voce. Commissioned by the Theater for the New City, the play (which Cruz is also directing) explores the relationship of an elderly German-born novelist and a young Cuban man who forge a bond based on their individual ties to the World War II voyage of the S.S. St. Louis.
The play's New York run begins with previews Feb. 13-14, followed by performances Feb. 15-March 9. But South Florida Cruz fans needn't travel to Manhattan to experience this metaphysical love story born of a long-ago tragedy, when a ship packed with Jewish refugees was turned away by Cuba, the United States and Canada, sending desperate asylum-seekers back to Europe and doom. Working in partnership with Miami's Arca Images, the playwright plans to bring 'Sotto Voce' home once its New York run ends.
Cruz, who recently directed a Spanish-language version of his play Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams at Miami-Dade County Auditorium's On.Stage Black Box theater, will offer the English-language Sotto Voce in the same venue March 20-23. Presented with Spanish supertitles, the play will feature the New York cast: Franca Sofia Barchiesi, a veteran of two Cruz plays and numerous regional theater productions, as the novelist Bernadette; Miamian Andhy Mendez as the young man, Saquiel; and Arielle Jacobs as Bernadette's Colombian maid Lucila.
The production, which Cruz hopes will be just the first in an ongoing relationship between Theater for the New City and the Miami theater projects he's doing with Arca, will get four performances in South Florida: 8:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 ($20 for seniors, students and groups), available by calling 786-327-4539 or visiting the Arca web site. The entrance to the On.Stage Black Box is behind the auditorium building at 2901 W. Flagler St., and the theater really is an onstage experience for both actors and audiences.
Once the Sotto Voce runs are over, Cruz can turn his attention to the prestigious Greenfield Prize and the future piece that its $30,000 in funding will enable. Created in 2009, the prize has gone to two other playwrights, Craig Lucas and John Guare. Cruz is the first Floridian and first Latino to win the prize, which will allow him two years to write a new play, with some of the work being done at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood, south of Sarasota. When the play is ready, it will be produced at Sarasota's Asolo Repertory Theatre. Olympia Dukakis will be the keynote speaker when Cruz is honored at this year's Greenfield Prize dinner April 12.