Anna in the Tropics

by Nilo Cruz

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Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 381

Linda Winer (quoted in Anders), a drama critic at Newsday who chaired the committee that awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama to Cruz, notes that Anna in the Tropics is ‘‘such a luscious play, with rich imagery and a sense of myth and labor history. It takes us to a world we don’t know.’’ Misha Berson (quoted in Anders), another Pulitzer juror and a theater critic for the Seattle Times, describes Anna in the Tropics as ‘‘lovely and kind of fragile, with archetypal, universal characters.’’ Kathryn Osenlund, writing for CurtainUp when Anna in the Tropics appeared at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, describes the play thusly: ‘‘Romantic, yet not hackneyed, richly infused with tradition, Cruz’s play quietly glows as it speaks of longings, family, jealousy, and love.’’

Elyse Sommer, writing a follow-up review for the same publication when Anna in the Tropics opened at the Royale Theater on Broadway, notes the play’s ‘‘predictability and tendency towards historical romance plotting,’’ but, nonetheless, she believes that the play ‘‘succeeds in conveying the sense of loss that inevitably accompanies the march of time and progress—and the ability of great literature to reach out to even the simplest readers (and listeners).’’ Not all critics view the play favorably, however. Clive Barnes, writing for the New York Post, questions whether Anna in the Tropics should have won the Pulitzer Prize, observing that ‘‘[t]here have been worse winners—and better ones.’’ Jonathan Abarbanel, in a review for Theater News, declares that ‘‘Cruz is not subtle. He states and repeats his themes in obvious strokes, and there is much heavy foreshadowing in the play.’’

Perhaps the most constructive criticism comes from Chris Anstey, who, in an article surveying the state of contemporary American theatre, cites what he considers to be the play’s most obvious flaw: Cheché is not the main character. According to Anstey, Cheché should be because he, not Juan Julian, acts as the strongest catalyst within Anna in the Tropics. In Anstey’s view, ‘‘Cruz keeps Cheché’s story obscure, a shadowy, internal affair, perhaps because his struggle is primarily with memory—his wife’s infidelity; and so Juan Julian is merely a reminder, a symbol that must be killed not for itself but for what it represents.’’

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