Credit: Anthony Aicardi

La Luz de un Cigarrillo
(literally “the light of a cigarette”) is the Spanish title of Marco
Antonio Rodriguez’s play about a troubled man’s return home for his
estranged father’s funeral. It’s better than the awkward English title
Rodriquez has chosen for the English-language version and more fitting for
a play in which characters routinely tamp down their feelings with food and
cigarettes. It promises the audience a story as moody, moving, and graceful
as a plume of cigarette smoke, and Rodriguez delivers on that promise.

Over the course of two intense hours we get to know Rodriguez’s exquisitely
drawn characters intimately—the stoical, repressive, and repressed
matriarch (named Luz), the artistic son she drove away, the eccentric aunt
who nurtured him in ways his mother would or could not—and watch them as
they try to deal with loss and regret, torn between the desire to escape
and the hope of redemption.

This is a play of long-simmering grudges and sudden outbursts, but Miranda
Gonzalez’s ensemble play it cool, revealing their characters slowly, never
falling into over-the-top telenovela-style acting (though the play, in the
wrong hands, could come off like a slow soap opera). In particular, Nydia
Castillo and Sipriano Cahue are riveting as the mother and son at the
center of the story; they reveal in every glance and gesture what a
minefield their relationship has become, and how much they yearn for
something better.   v