Cloud Tectonics (Review)

Transit Five time jumps with premiere by Jose Rivera

One character asks, "When did we meet?" A simple question, right? Not so in Cloud Tectonics, a 75-minute 1995 Jose Rivera script that Transit Five Productions is premiering locally at Xavier University studio theater.

Three characters — pregnant Celestina (Julia Albain) and two brothers, Anibal (Jonathan Helvey) and Nelson (Drew Tholke) — coexist but in different time frames. Clocks stop and, presumably, time slips into under-drive when Celestina is around.

On Anibal's calendar, Celestina has been pregnant for more than two years when he rescues her during a torrential rainstorm. Brother Nelson arrives unexpectedly on leave from the military. After some macho knockabout, he falls into an instant (too instant to be credible) passion for Celestina. He bonds with her unborn baby, gives her his dog tags and vows to return to marry her when his hitch is up in two years. Once he's gone, Anibal and Celestina head off to bed. Yes, together. Twenty minutes later for them — two years later for Nelson — he returns and gets righteously pissed to find them in bed. Then 40 years elapse, and it all gets really confusing.

If Rivera had some profound point to make with this sleight-of-hand, he didn't work it into his script very clearly. Or director Brian Barasch and his actors don't work it out into view. Or both. A discussion in the program asks about time standing still and how that might affect lives. Nothing very attractive or believable happens to these three.

The script keeps interrupting itself with lengthy, tangentially related monologues — some exploring Rivera's love-hate relationship with Los Angeles. The three actors are uniformly effective in these solo turns, somewhat less so in the give-and-take of dialogue. Only a tender moment when Celestina asks Anibal to rub her cold feet plays with real magnetism.

Transit Five is a group of young people who acted together at Sycamore High School and return from separate academic pursuits to make summer-theater together.

CLOUD TECTONICS, presented by Transit Five, continues through Aug. 16. Get details and find nearby restaurants and bars here.
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