Cliché kills any potential for sparks at Mixed Blood's 'Corazon Eterno'

Rich Ryan

Rich Ryan

Girl meets boy. Girl’s father disapproves, because boy is poor. Boy works to get rich. Girl meets another boy — a doctor. See where this is heading?

Mixed Blood Theatre
$25 reserved seating; rush tickets are free before show

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It’s a tale that’s been told many times, and Mixed Blood Theatre doesn’t make much of a case for the latest telling: a new Caridad Svich play named Corazón Eterno (Always In My Heart) inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Directed by José Zayas, this production features a lot of flowery talk of love, but little in the way of characters who inspire emotional investment.

The play’s setting is unnamed, and the characters alternate between speaking Spanish and English (translations, both ways, are provided in surtitles).

English literature is a shared interest of Julia (Mariana Fernández) and Julio (Israel López Reyes), who meet as teenagers and start trading swooning love letters that include provocative quotes from D.H. Lawrence. That’s the only way they can connect, since Julia’s widowed father, Agustin (Raúl Ramos), forbids his daughter to date a humble messenger boy.

Eventually, Agustin forces Julia to move out of town, where after two years she’s still bereft. Agustin takes her to a psychiatrist (Sasha Andreev), whose professional ethics don’t last long. Even as those physical therapy sessions steam up, Julio is abandoning his artistic dreams to take a boring but remunerative job in the hopes of regaining his lost love.

Although Andreev’s character is morally suspect, his arrival is welcome because he’s at least recognizably human. Reyes and Fernández are both weirdly wooden, most of all in their shared scenes; it’s hard to see how this was an affair that would haunt them both for years.

Ramos delivers a confident performance, but there’s little for him to do with the character of the disapproving dad. The actor who gets to run away with this show is Lisa Suarez as Julio’s mother, Clemencia. An empathetic pragmatist who was abandoned by Julio’s father, Clemencia knows life is short. Her outbursts — exasperated but affectionate, and sometimes amusingly profane — light up the stage. Unfortunately, there’s not much else that does so in a show smothered by stale metaphors.

It takes place on an eccentric set, by Abbee Warmboe, that represents oft-referenced cherry-blossom trees as miniature models of themselves. A warning about theatrical haze is no joke: The entire show is suffused with smoke. A disconcertingly jolting soundscape by C. Andrew Mayer makes sure that when a scene ends on a dramatic note, we don’t miss it.

Svich wrote Mixed Blood’s successful adaptations of In the Time of the Butterflies and The House of the Spirits, but this love story doesn’t tug very hard at the heartstrings.

Corazón Eterno
(Always In My Heart)
Mixed Blood Theatre
1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis
612-338-6131; through February 25