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Published on June 18th, 2012 | by RLn Staff

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Cloud Tectonics, Time Gymnastics

By John Farrell

Los Angeles is a land of fantasies come true, but there has never been a fantasy quite as big as the tale spun in Cloud Tectonics, currently at the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theatre through July 7.

Rain is only an occasional visitor in La-La land, but Cloud Tectonics begins in the rain, a huge, hurricane-style rain. We meet the very-pregnant Celestina del Sol (Leah Steiner) sitting at a bus stop on the corner of Santa Monica and Virgil, looking for help. She is found, wet and bedraggled, by Anibal de la Luna (Daniel Penilla), who doesn’t notice the odd juxtaposition of his and her name, and takes her home to his bungalow in Hollywood.

Right from the start strange things happen. She isn’t hungry, but very thirsty. She knows nothing of time, not even what hours and minutes are. She is obsessed with sex, but apparently had sex only once, and is trying to find the father of her child. Clocks in the house stop working, and time seem to stand still.

Anibal’s brother, Nelson de la Luna (David Santana), shows up unannounced, on leave from the military with just a few days before his time with the Army is up, and falls in love with Celestina.

Twenty minutes later Anibal is finally going to bed with Celestina when his brother shows up again. What has been less than half an hour in Anibal’s apartment has been two years outside, and Nelson is now a decorated war hero from Bosnia, come to take his love with him. When he finds her pregnant (he thinks again: we know better) he is crushed.

Next thing we know Celestina shows up with her child in a stroller, but Anibal doesn’t remember her. It has been a few weeks in her time, forty years in his and she was only with him a few confused hours. Since then LA has been leveled by five simultaneous earthquakes and rebuilt with the White House now moved to Wilshire Blvd. Daniel has married a pregnant woman from Bosnia and has 13 children. Celestina is only a few weeks older.

That’s the plot, anyway. But Jose Rivera’s play isn’t about plot. It’s about love and life and how we experience that ineffable thing we call: time. Celestina is one of God’s wise fools, living her life in a world removed from everyday reality. And Anibal and Nelson have just a few minutes to experience a miracle. Director Olivia Trevino lets the play’s language and its involving story evolve on a simple stage. The audience may at first be confused, but by the play’s end, they understand that Celestina and Anibal represent different ways of experiencing life’s mysteries, the moon and the sun in this delightful, thought-provoking and yet simple story.

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