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LA Theater Review

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

Delving into the world of children's theatre, Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz (Anna in the Tropics) adapted this short story, written by Nobel Prize Laureate Gabriel García Márquez. Though it premiered several years ago at the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, it's here in only its third major production. Cruz's lyrical dialogue provides several beautiful moments, which the cast and director Andrew Tsao handle with elegance. But this minimal story doesn't sustain a 70-minute running time, and its melancholy mood may not resonate with younger children.

Marquez's story uses the style of magical realism, which seamlessly combines realism and fantasy. It begins with the appearance of the moon, La Luna (Dreya Weber), and the fall of a mysterious winged man from the sky into a small town somewhere close to the Caribbean Sea. The man has lost his memory. He is discovered by siblings Fefé and Momó (Lena Gwendolyn Hill and Matthew Yang King), who can understand him even though he can't speak. The children name the man Afar (Damian D. Lewis), and they believe he is an angel. They try to protect him, but their father Pelayo (Liam Craig) believes he can make money for his poor family by putting Afar on display. Meanwhile, Pelayo's wife Elisenda (Elisa Llamido) wants to believe that Afar is the answer to prayers for her sick baby. The town's other mysterious creature is Spider Woman (Dreya Weber), a multilimbed creature who is part of a circus.

The production is a satisfying visual and aural feast. Yael Pardess' set deign is dreamlike, its dominant element a cliff that rises to the stars. The costumes, designed by Allison Leach, are imaginative, in particular Afar's patchwork wings. Wang's Caribbean-inspired music is somber and compliments the story. The performances are serviceable if not particularly memorable. Lewis, who never speaks in the role of Afar, is perfect as the lost soul who has forgotten how to fly. Weber, an aerialist, adds a bit of highflying stunts to her creepy portrayal of Spider Woman. And Hill, as the young, idealistic Fefé, provides the production's emotional center. But Cruz's script repeats itself too much. With editing, this could become a memorable family-friendly theatrical experience.

Presented by and at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. Fri. 7 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 2 & 5 p.m. Nov. 19-Dec. 18. (213) 628-2772.

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