Play models tragic love

Quiet, heartfelt story showcased in Cuban setting

By Xavier Johnson, Scene Editor

The drama department is beginning the spring 2017 semester with the opening of its third show of the 2016-17 theater season on March 16.

“Two Sisters and a Piano” is directed by Contra Costa College adjunct professor Tara Blau. Performances will occur from March 16-18 and March 23-25. Tickets for all performances are $15 general admission and $10 for students.

Blau previously directed “Wonders of the World” in the 2015-16 theater season and this will be her second directorial production at CCC.

“Two Sisters” was originally written by Nilo Cruz, an award- winning Cuban-American playwright, and is set in Havana, Cuba during the Pan American Games, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The focus is on two sisters under house arrest and their relationship with each other, as well as their place in the world, Blau said.

Akilah Kamau plays Maria Celia, a writer who faced persecution for her work. Kamau recently represented CCC at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Denver, Colorado.

This will be Kamau’s third performance at CCC. She also performed in “The Laramie Project” and “Achilles in Sparta.”

Middle College High School sophomore Jelaine Maestas plays Maria’s sister Sofia. Maestas has performed in three other productions at the college.

She was a member of the cast for “Almost, Maine,” “Achilles in Sparta” and “the Laramie Project.”

“At its core this is a love story,” Blau said. She said it’s about the love between sisters, the romantic love for others, as well as the love for one’s country.

Blau said “Two Sisters” is an intimate and quiet production that will use various production elements to complement the tone.

One such element that’s different than usual performances at the Knox Center is the seating available on the stage for the audience.

The seating on the stage creates a greater sense of closeness than the standard setup the theater provides, Blau said.

Kamau said she understands why Blau says “Two Sisters” is an “intimate” production. There are a lot of moments in the play where nonverbal communication, such as a subtle look or touch, will tell a lot about the characters, more than the dialogue sometimes, Kamau said.

Other elements used will include audio and video to give context for what Havana was like at the time, as well as provide a more immersive experience.

This will possibly be achieved by having video clips of early 1990s Cuba, as well as sound relevant to the era, Blau said.

Freshman drama major Sean Teal plays Victor Manuel, a piano tuner who finds his way into the two sisters’ lives and is a key character in the play.

This will be Teal’s second show at the college, his first being “Achilles in Sparta.”

Teal said his character, Manuel, is the kind of person that constantly thinks about doing right and wants to make a difference.

“I relate to the way (Manuel) is not ashamed to be himself,” Teal said.

He said he finds it easier to portray his character when he’s able to relate on a personal level.

Sophomore drama major Diego Loza plays Lt. Portuondo, the love interest of Maria in the play. He said their relationship is him being “a lion stalking his prey” while Maria resists his advances.

Maestas said she wasn’t familiar with “Two Sisters” when she auditioned, but when she read the script she found it a beautiful play.

She said each production she’s been a part of has been a strong learning experience and this will be another good learning experience for her.