Monday, February 13, 2017

Corazón Eterno Warms the Heart

A love story for the ages, just in time for Valentine's Day. 

Photo by Rich Ryan.
We live in tumultuous times, and much of the art being made right now reflects this. It's important to use art as a way to help process things, to put things in their place and to consider them from a new angle. But let's be honest: it can get a little exhausting.

We can't be going at full speed all the time in every direction; something's got to give. So it was refreshing to attend Corazón Eterno last weekend at Mixed Blood Theatre. Corazón Eterno is pure romantic treacle, in the greatest traditions (think The Notebook or Love in the Time of Cholera). It's not revelatory or life changing, but it is definitely heartwarming and hearkens back to a simpler time, which provided a soothing place of respite after weeks of political contention.
Photo by Rich Ryan.
Corazón Eterno is narrated by Julio Gonzalez, a man reflecting on the story of the great love of his life, Julia. It begins with the sweet blossoming of their romance as teenagers, follows the difficult split Julia's father forces upon them, Julia's subsequent marriage to another man (who eventually betrays her), Julio's bitter loneliness without his love, and the final reconciliation between the two much later in life when they have softened and can truly belong to each other. It's a simple story that I'm sure you've heard before, but it's still enjoyable despite its familiarity.

The narration is told alternately in English and Spanish (with subtitles that switch between both). This bilingual performance is one of my favorite things about Mixed Blood (and something I wish was far more common in the Twin Cities, particularly for our diverse communities). It's an additional challenge for the actors, of course, and all of the cast here handled it well, seamlessly transitioning between languages in different contexts. Israel López Reyes is quiet and steadfast as Julio Gonzalez, and he steadily steers the course of the story. I found Reyes' solemnity really endearing, and it made the story feel more grounded than silly. Mariana Fernández plays Julio's lost-love Julia. Fernández has a wily air about her, maneuvering her way through Julia's disappointment. She felt a little less in-touch than Reyes, but they ably demonstrate the mixed dynamics of Julio and Julia's relationships.
Photo by Rich Ryan.

Raúl Ramos is fiery as Julia's father Agustin, and Sasha Andreev is hard to love as Migel Reyes, Julia's first husband. I'm not sure what it is about Andreev but he seems to gravitate towards difficult characters who he somehow manages to render far more palatable than they should be, which is a feat in itself. The show's standout by far is Lisa Suarez who is utterly charming as Julio's mother Clemencia. She brings wit, heart, and tender passion to her role, and she's an absolute joy to watch. I hope to see more of her in the future!

If you need a pleasant escape from today's troubles (who doesn't?), Corazón Eterno may be for you. Is it life-changing? No. Is it innovative? No. But it is heartwarming and familiar, and it felt like the visual equivalent of a cozy blanket with a mug of cocoa. The story's mundanity is exactly what I needed after weeks of dizzyingly paced news, dread of the unknown and crazy events. If you need such a break too (or want a really excellent way to practice your Spanish listening and reading skills), look no further. Corazón  Eterno runs through February 25 at Mixed Blood Theatre. For more information or to buy tickets, click on this link.