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  • Carl Llabres and Cathy Burroughs

Aurora Theatre’s Moving and Lyrical 3-Person Tour De Force - the Memory Play Sotto Voce by Pulitzer


The aftermath of the holocaust, lost love and renewed hope are powerful themes lyrically and mysteriously revealed in Aurora Theatre’s 3-person tour de force, the memory play Sotto Voce, now playing in the intimate Peach State Federal Credit Union Studio, Aurora Theatre’s smaller second stage, through May 8th. Beautifully and sensitively staged by gifted director Associate Artistic Director Justin Anderson, the subtle and ephemeral chamber piece is written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Nilo Cruz. With creative lighting, projections and poetical sound score, designers Ben Rawson (lighting) and Rob Brooksher (sound), respectively, evoke an ocean passage, flags, history and war; while an immense bookcase morphs into a ship stern, a library, a park and more as past informs present in the imaginative dreamscape created by Trevor Carrier. Sotto Voce, which means softly spoken, undertone or subtext, tells the story of surviving tragedy as Aurora’s Harvel Lab Series sponsored by Georgia Gwinnett College continues.

Credit: Chris Bartelski

Noted and reclusive German novelist Bernadette Kahn has stopped writing and for all extents and purposes, her life. Becoming more and more insular, Kahn avoids confronting the disastrous loss of her great love Ariel Strauss, years earlier, during WW II. When Strauss and his sister Nina flee Nazi Germany, together with 935 other Jewish refugees on the S.S. St. Louis, attempting to seek asylum, in both Cuba and the U.S., all but 22 are refused. They are forced to return to Europe where their lives end horrifically in the Death Camps, Ariel and Nina among them.

Now the older and lovely Bemadette, played with graceful conviction, restrained dignity and evolving vulnerability and sensuality by Marianne Fraulo, lives isolated in her New York apartment; her primary contact is Colombian caregiver and assistant Lucila Pulpo which actor Denise Arribas imbues with humor, zest and an unfolding depth and dimension. Arribas transforms herself in a second role in a lovely rendering, playing Strauss’s long dead sister. Lucila and Bemadette’s worlds are rocked when a young Jewish writer from Cuba, Saquiel Rafael, in a stellar portrayal by the handsome chameleon Louis Gregory, inserts himself in their lives.

Credit: Chris Bartelski

Gregory’s metamorphosis is total as he plays both the young writer in the present and the German Ariel Strauss from the past. As Saquiel, he relentlessly pursues knowledge associated with Strauss, his sister and the ship’s other lost passengers. Call after call, email after email, ultimately, Saquiel designates Lucila to intervene as he with equal fervor pursues one, and then, both women in present time. Perhaps to Bemadette or Lucila or both, Saquiel represents the "sotto voice" the underlying emotion or subtext of their past asking to be released and healed. His time due to his visa status is restricted and as the young man must return to Cuba and not be allowed to return, fate begins to repeat itself with a variation of that long ago calamitous chapter, now being painfully refrained. Both Arribas and Gregory manage two dueling characters, accents and cultures with finesse with Gregory sustaining a vast watery depth of emotional ardor and intensity throughout.

Gwinnett’s only professional theater, the stunning Aurora Theatre, is located just off the historic Lawrenceville Square at 128 East Pike Street 30046 in a magnificently restored church. With exposed brick, original architectural elements, generous concessions bar and two exquisite theater spaces, the venue offers free covered and attached parking with direct theater access. Noted for their theatrical rigor and intensity, spectacular musicals and outstanding paid internship program, Aurora may have broken a record last year winning five prestigious Suzi Bass Awards for artistic excellence.

2015/2016 culminates the Twentieth Anniversary Season: The Best is Yet to Come with I’m not Rappaport from May 5th through June 5th and a free public performance of their exceptional musical co-production with Theatrical Outfit Memphis on the Duluth Town Green on Saturday, May 14th at 7 pm. To rent a table or order catering go to the web site or call the box office. Producing Artistic Director Anthony P. Rodriguez, Chair of Gwinnett's Chamber of Commerce, has spearheaded a series of bilingual Spanish cultural experiences (this current show has Spanish subtitles projected on both side walls) including the upcoming La Leyenda del Imperio Inka on June 11th at 8 pm. Aurora Theatre hosts a children's series, a comedy series and much more. Season ticket holders are offered outstanding discounts and perks. To order tickets or more information call (678) 226-6222 or check out www.auroratheatre.com for next season’s Reaching New Heights and this summer’s upcoming activities and programs.

Carl Llabres frequently covers the Atlanta theater scene for The Aquarius Magazine and is also a creative writer. Cathy H. Burroughs has covered the SE for Backstage Magazineand appears in The Aquarius Magazine, and others, regularly. For more check out www.cathyburroughs.com or see the Arts & Culture archive on www.aquarius-atlanta.com.

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