‘Lydia’ combines magic, realism, love

The new show at the Yale Repertory Theatre, Octavio Solis’ “Lydia,” directed by Juliette Carrillo, blends harsh realities about love, sex, betrayal and family with poetry and fantasy to create a magical, gritty world.

The production at the Yale Rep is the play’s east coast premiere, Associate Artistic Director Jennifer Kiger said, and will hopefully mark the beginning of a long partnership between Solis and the Rep.

“We’re proud to introduce Yale’s audiences to Octavio, who has been a successful writer for more than twenty years, but whose work is better known to audiences on the west coast,” Kiger said in an e-mail to the News. “Octavio often writes about characters and cultures that are under-represented on the stage, but his work speaks to all audiences with the same urgency and poetry. He’s an important voice in the American theatre.”

The Yale Rep recently commissioned a new play from Solis.

“Lydia” premiered last year at the Denver Center Theater Company. Though the director, Carrillo and all but two of the original cast members have followed the show to the Rep, the play itself has undergone some changes, Solis said. After the west coast performance, Solis revised the script.

Set in the early 1970s against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and rising tensions concerning illegal immigration, “Lydia” tells the story of the Flores family, Mexican immigrants living in El Paso, Texas.

The play opens on Ceci Flores, who is in a vegetative state after being severely injured in a car accident two years before the story begins. The title character, Lydia, a maid who immigrated from Mexico, comes to live with the Flores family to help care for Ceci so her mother, Rosa, can return to work. Lydia’s character, Solis said, is a vehicle for the emergence of truth in the show.

“The house is rife with secrets and lies and stifled acts of love,” he wrote in an e-mail to the News. “She wants to cast light in the dark corners of the house.”

While “Lydia” grapples with tragic themes, such as doomed love, squandered youth and the bitterness of loss, the play also possesses moments of humor, innocence and sweetness.

When asked how she dealt with the heavy subject matter, Carrillo said she was thankful the cast and company bonded while working on the production. The play, she added, is ultimately about love.

Elements of fantasy and magic — from children’s games to a supernatural link between two of the main characters — gave Carrillo more freedom to “explore form and style,” she said.

The show is dedicated to composer Chris Webb, who passed away on Dec. 15, 2008. Webb wrote most of the music for the show and contributed to both the east and west coast productions.

“Lydia” runs through Feb. 28.

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