2 River Theater’s ‘Ropes’ ties together 1 estranged father and 3 brothers

Mexican playwright Barbara Colio has written a work translated by Maria Alexandria Beech that is a universal story about forgiveness, love, and loss as three brothers accept an invitation from their estranged father watch him create his greatest tightrope walking stunt ever. It features (from left) Luis Moreno as Presley, Varín Ayala as Paul, and Gabriel Gutiérrez as Prince. (PHOTO) T Charles Erickson
“Ropes” features (from left) Luis Moreno as Presley, Varín Ayala as Paul, and Gabriel Gutiérrez as Prince. (PHOTO) T Charles Erickson

“Ropes,” a new play, is about three brothers who rarely talk or see each other but come together at their estranged father’s behest to travel thousands of miles to see him walk a tightrope one last time.

Written by Latin American playwright Bárbara Colio, translated by Maria Alexandria Beech, and directed by Lisa Rothe, this work could be about three brothers from any country in the world.

It focusses on siblings who still remember hurts and slights from childhood, are wildly different from each other as adults, who briefly join together in a united journey while bickering the entire time, and return home somewhat changed but still questioning their places in their world.

This play was part of Two River’s 2013 Crossing Borders festival of new Latino plays where then, and now, English- and  Spanish-language performances are scheduled. But there is nothing overtly Spanish about this work. These guys could be Russian, Australian or  American. While almost all of its 80 minutes is set in airports, we don’t know which ones. The ultimate destination is never mentioned. Do any of them live in a Spanish-speaking country?  It’s baffling to me, but, whatever.

The sons are named after famous singers:

— Luis Moreno plays Presley, the eldest son and a successful businessman in construction. He has a wife he loves, but he doesn’t want to be a father — yet. She isn’t much liked by his siblings and the feeling is mutual. He bought them all first class plane tickets, dresses expensively and expects to lead.

— Varin Ayala plays Paul (the cute Beatle), the middle brother who is one year younger that Presley and acts kind of like a referee. We don’t know what he does for a living but repeatedly reminds dos brothers he doesn’t have enough vacation time to get together often. He’s lonely and would like to meet the woman whom he sees from his balcony every day walking her dog.

— Gabriel Gutierrez is Prince, three years younger than Presley, who blames his constant crying as a baby for driving  their father out of the family. If Prince has a job, he never talks about it. He takes his shoes off ever chance, dresses casual, travels with a backpack only, and wears his hair in a top knot. He has a terminally ill girlfriend.

In "Ropes," three brothers rendezvous at an airport to travel to meet the father who abandoned them as children and now is the most famous tightrope walker of all time. The sons are played by Gabriel Gutierrez (from left) as Prince, the youngest brother; Varín Ayala as Paul, the middle brother, and Luis Moreno as Presley, the oldest brother.(PHOTO) T Charles Erickson
In “Ropes,” three brothers rendezvous at an airport to travel to meet the father who abandoned them as children and now is the most famous tightrope walker of all time. The sons are played by Gabriel Gutierrez (from left) as Prince; Varín Ayala as Paul, and Luis Moreno as Presley. (PHOTO) T Charles Erickson

These siblings really don’t seem to have anything in common except for their father and crazy cat-loving mother who only talks to Paul and, he says, only responds in monosyllables. No wonder they never socialize. If it sounds depressing.

It’s only after the three men get into a physical fight with each other, miss their connecting flight, and get drunk in the airport bar do they seem to get along. And they mostly talk about their dad, the guy who wants them to see his greatest and last stunt as a tightrope. walker … excuse me, aerial artist.

There is not much mystery about how the show will end. And whether the siblings will ever get together for that talked about trip to their old lake home in a red convertible — which sounds like a great idea — seems very unlikely.

The actors all are fine in roles that don’t have much depth. Director Lisa Rothe makes good use of the small Marion Huber Theater, a black box that seats maybe 80 people for this play.

Nacelle Sissons’ set is minimalistic but fascinating, especially with lighting by Mary Louise Geiger. The audience sits at an angle and a long concourse-like airport walkway runs in front of us, also at an angle. It’s about three feet off the ground with airport doors behind it far right and left. Open-air boxes serves as seats and are moved around. Above the stage are three tightropes. Each is headed in the same direction but at different heights and different angles, never touching. They remind me of the three brothers — moving forward, just not on the same path. Do these ropes bind them together or pull them apart?

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