Love is patient, but life is not. “Cloud Tectonics” by José Rivera, showing at the Yale Cabaret this weekend, is equally funny and thrilling, an intimate portrayal of a romance as it forms over the course of one very long evening. If your love language isn’t Spanish, turn your brightness to low and pull up Google Translate. If you’re not the type to pull out your phone or desktop computer at the theater, congratulations on not being a terrible person — and fear not, there’s only one monologue in Spanish. Hopefully, you’ll pick up a few new words, like quesadilla, and leave the theatre remarking, “Coño, that was a good show.”
The play opens on a darkened stage; peals of thunder reverberate, and a violent rain beats down. Nothing good begins on a dark and stormy night. A heavily pregnant and very damp Celestina del Sol (Stephanie Machado DRA ’18) sticks out her thumb as car after car whizzes past. Headlights zoom across the set, briefly illuminating the terrified Celestina as hope drains from her face. Finally, a car slows to a stop and a young man, Anibal de la Luna (Barbaro Guzman DRA ’18), beckons the rain-soaked girl inside. Afraid and childlike beside Anibal, only Celestina’s large belly betrays her maturity.
Anibal begins driving through the “storm of the century,” but Celestina does not know where they’re headed. She’s on a mission to find the father of her child, a former employee of her papi. Without a destination or a lead, Anibal takes the mysterious Celestina back to his apartment to wait out the storm. As soon as they walk in the door, the clocks stop.
Love is a funny thing. It can make days seem like seconds. Years can go by without lovers’ noticing. That’s probably why I’m still waiting for a text back after a month. Employing the Hispanophone tradition of magical realism to play with perception, time and love, “Cloud Tectonics” considers carefully what it means to have a love that lasts a lifetime.
Celestina is awestruck by Anibal’s apartment, as she’s lived most of her life in one room.
Time works differently around Celestina. Her papi called her cursed. Celestina asks Anibal if years are longer than hours because she can’t tell the difference. She confesses that she is a 54-year-old woman who has only aged as far as 25. When she left her home in search of her baby’s father, she was newly pregnant. Now she appears several months along, but she began her quest over two years ago. To her, the days seem like seconds, and if she isn’t paying attention, years can go by.
Machado explores Celestina’s dual nature, nimbly moving between flirtatious girl and sexually confident woman. Celestina is enamored with Anibal’s boyish charm, and her effervescence and mystery enchants him. At first, they are awkward together, like two nervous teens on a first date. That, and Anibal’s disbelief in Celestina’s story, result in multiple laugh-out-loud moments as they navigate the relationship between roadside savior and pregnant immortal. Celestina is a less-than-virginal Madonna with Child, and Anibal seems happy to accept the role of stepfather Joseph. Just as the pair begins to grow comfortable with one another, there’s a pounding at the door.
Anibal’s brother, Nelson (Bradley James Tejada DRA ’16), bursts through the door like a jolt of energy. If Anibal is the quiet rumbling thunder of the storm, Nelson is the bolt of lightning — loud, quick and electrifying. Nelson is brash and oozes machismo, a stark contrast to his soft-spoken and tender-hearted brother. “Tectonics” plays with the two types of men: one sensitive, one passionate. Nelson’s effusive compliments to Celestina distract her from Anibal’s attentions as she is swept up in his hyper-masculine display of affection. As an audience, we question whom we’d want to spend the night with and whom we’d want to wake up next to. (Hint: Nelson looks incredibly appetizing, but so does the real quesadilla that Anibal makes about halfway through.)
As quickly as Nelson arrives, he must depart. Anibal insists that he stay while the storm blows over, but Nelson says he must return to his Army base in Death Valley. Anibal protests at the brevity of the visit, but Nelson retorts that that’s life, just “a fucking blink.”
The play goes by in another “fucking blink.” Highly entertaining and only 60 minutes, the play hurtles towards an emotionally charged, Spanglish conclusion. I left the Cab contemplating the time we invest in our relationships. For Celestina, years feel like minutes; for me, the month I’ve been waiting for a text back has felt like years. Maybe I should brave the storm and venture out in search of my own gestating immortal. “Cloud Tectonics” is worth your time, whether you’re seeking romantic fulfillment, entertainment or a great quesadilla-making demonstration.