NY Daily News | Robert Dominguez’ Que Pasa
Most people return from a visit to Cuba with expensive cigars hidden in their luggage.
Max Ferra brings home controversial plays.
Ferra, the founder and artistic director of INTAR Hispanic American Arts Center in Manhattan, has made three trips to his homeland in the past four years to research Cuban theater.
While he hasn’t earned frequent flier miles for visiting Havana, his journeys have paid off artistically.
The last two productions at INTAR were plays by Cuban playwrights who gladly gave Ferra permission to stage their work in the U.S. - in English.
“I had a curiosity about what the playwrights in Cuba are writing about,” says the 65-year-old Ferra, who was born in Camaguey and emigrated to New York in the 1960s.
“I wanted to see how the people who are living in that terrible situation were expressing themselves. There were two plays that really impressed me, and I brought them back.”
In March, Ferra produced “Havana Under the Sea,” a musical based on “Santa Cecilia,” a wistful monologue by Abilio Estevez about the ghost of an upper-class woman who haunts Havana, which lays in ruins at the bottom of the ocean.
Currently at INTAR is “Faith Hope & Charity,” a drama by Albero Pedro that puts a new spin on a familiar painting found in many Cuban homes - three desperate fishermen of different races, caught in an angry storm, praying to the Virgin of Charity (the patron saint of Cuba).
In the play, it’s a trio of multiracial women (Maria Cellario, Judith Delgado and Dana Manno) who are lost at sea - after escaping the island in a leaky boat bound for the U.S. And the Virgin (Mizan Nunes) appears in her Afro-Cuban identity, Oshun, the Santeria Goddess of Love and Joy.
Like “Havana Under the Sea,” “Faith” is a highly symbolic work with a strong political message about repression under Communist rule, says Ferra.
“It’s a metaphor for what’s happening down there,” he says. “The women represent the Cuban people, and the raft that’s stuck in the middle of the ocean symbolizes being trapped on an island that’s going nowhere.”