The Cruise Review - Storms over the Caribbean

Talented playwright Jonathan Ceniceroz has drawn from his own experiences to bring a cruise to life for the lucky, land-locked downtown Los Angeles audience. A local Hispanic writer from the San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles, author Ceniceroz has tackled multiple issues for the contemporary Latin population – and any immigrant group. Ramon Garcia (Ric Salinas) has found his niche in life as a “guest lecturer” on different cruise lines. For years, he has been crossing the seven seas, with the occasional stop to visit his divorced wife and son James (Kenneth Lopez). Currently, grown-up James is a graduate of New York University – suggesting an even greater distance between the two than simply geographic. However, things have not been going well in New York for James, what with the break-up of his relationship with his gay partner and his current “between-jobs” situation.  Thus, this seems like the perfect time to join his father as a guest on his current Caribbean cruise.

Carolyn Almos, Gary Lamb, Ric Salinas, and Kenneth Lopez - Photo by Grettel Cortes

As it turns out, things can get pretty exciting on a Caribbean cruise. James meets very gringa, very wealthy, and very conservative Judith Coburn (Carolyn Almos) and her second husband Howard (Gary Lamb). The three strike it off immediately and discover that they may share a few ideas. Meanwhile, flamboyant cruise director Boyd (Brian Wallace) clashes with Ramon over some past indiscretions. This is definitely not a dull voyage.

Ric Salinas and Brian Wallace - Photo by Grettel Cortes

Playwright Ceniceroz has done an excellent job of pinpointing the chasm between the elder Ramon, a third-generation Latino, and his son James, a fourth-generation Latino. Ramon has hidden and fled from some of his past peccadillos, while James sees no need to hide anything about himself. Ramon has marched for equality and been involved in making political statements for much of his life. His son has moved from the West to the East Coast, has very little interest in cultural heritage, and has definitely assimilated into the broader American culture. Life’s experiences have wreaked havoc on identity issues.

Kenneth Lopez and Carolyn Almos - Photo by Grettel Cortes

Even with all the political and cultural issues raised, at its core this is the tale is a fractured father/son relationship which clearly needs mending. The author has managed to take intriguing philosophical points and boil them down to a study of intense feelings and even emotional pain. Even so, thought-provoking questions are raised: What does assimilation into the larger culture really mean? When does alienation become inclusion? Is it possible to join together when basic philosophies are miles apart?

Carolyn Almos, Gary Lamb, Ric Salinas, and Brian Wallace - Photo by Grettel Cortes

Director Heath Cullens has artfully helmed this production, so simple on the surface and yet so profound underneath the chuckles. Despite a potentially heavy set of questions raised, he has still maintained humor and an element of hope. The talented cast defines each character with skill and compassion. By the end of the play, the audience is sure that, no matter what, everyone will persist and (perhaps) succeed – but will never stop trying. This fascinating play will appeal to adult audiences, especially those who have ever found themselves at odds with their own parents or children. Obviously, this play will also appeal to Hispanics and many immigrant groups as they deal with assimilation and other generational conundrums.

Gary Lamb, Carolyn Almos, Ric Salinas, Brian Wallace, and Kenneth Lopez - Photo by Grettel Cortes

THE CRUISE runs through April 9, 2017 with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays to Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Los Angeles Theatre Center (Theater 4) is located at 514 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Tickets ranged from $22 to $38. For information and reservations, call 866-811-4111 or go online.  

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