Victor, Dolores and Jesús live in heavenly isolation on a “forgotten island” in the Caribbean. The outside world sees the trio as odd, labeling their relationship an affliction and hurling stones at Jesús, the 21-year-old aspiring poet whose presence has turned a marriage into a love triangle.
Yet the people at each point of the triangle are getting their needs met -- and dreams fulfilled -- by the unorthodox arrangement.
That relationship, fueled by passion and superstition and practicality, is at the heart of Ricky J. Martinez’s Road Through Heaven, a play getting its world premiere at Miami’s New Theatre. The script is the second in a trilogy by Martinez, the company’s artistic director. Though it has virtues and flaws (as so many new plays do), it’s a stronger piece than 2007’s Sin Full Heaven.
Since Martinez is appearing in the play as Victor, he has turned over directing duties to Margaret M. Ledford, who stages Road Through Heaven with lyricism, humor and grace. The audience, sitting onstage with the actors, feels intimately connected to the characters’ world, and the front row is so close to the set’s tiny “beach” that sand works its way into theatergoers’ footwear. Designer Amanda Sparhawk creates a tidily kept, modest island home for the rich-in-love family, underscoring their relationship with a wooden triangle set into the floor.
As a playwright, Martinez blends island superstition and ritual with the bedrock human longing to connect, be loved and build a family. Magical realism figures into the play, and the two characters outside the triangle are different but delightful life forces: María (Julissa Calderon), a strong and spirited neighbor who dreams of becoming an actress, and an energetic but silent little boy (Enzo Roque and David A. Gonzalez alternate in the role). The child, unseen by everyone except Dolores, is the spirit of her unborn child and a harbinger of danger -- when he appears, so do blood-tinged white feathers.
What’s harder to buy than an almost-invisible kid is the play’s central triangle. Jesús (Javier Cabrera) was an abused kid who witnessed his parents’ murder-suicide when he was only 12. After living on the streets, he has found a home -- and a shared bed -- with Victor and Dolores. Dolores (Evelyn Perez) is a tough, not particularly affectionate woman who has a complicated relationship with the island’s brujas, to Victor’s dismay. Victor (Martinez), who slaves away processing sugar cane, tells Jesús he has never been attracted to men. Yet suddenly, the older guy has the hots for the wordsmith who has been sleeping with his wife. And everyone is OK with the share and share alike vibe.
Perhaps, with some work on the trio at the play’s core, Road Through Heaven could move from the realm of fantasy and deepen into something richer, more complex and more moving.