“A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”

Arts / Article

Written by the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1955, “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” is one of his most beloved and anthologized stories. The short story is an example of magical realism, a narrative in which characters and setting are “real world” but which also includes a convincing and straightforward element of magic. The reader must agree to temporarily suspend disbelief in order to understand and appreciate the story. Marquez is often cited as the father of this literary technique.

We’ve witnessed the power of magic on kids in the wildly successful “Harry Potter.” (Of course, those of us reading before the Potter years can cite the myriad other much-loved books dealing with magic. (“The Big Friendly Giant” and “A Wrinkle in Time” were two personal favorites.) It isn’t that much of a leap, then, to imagine adapting this story, which contains as a main character a genuine angel, into a play for young audiences.

Until May 25, 2012 The Playground Theatre, a Knight Arts grantee, will be presenting Nilo Cruz’s adaptation of “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.” Cruz, a Cuban-American playwright, won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play “Anna in the Tropics,” so we know we’re in capable hands. He’s written the lyrics, in addition to the adaptation, for the play. To create its version of the performance, The PlayGround Theatre enlisted director Stephanie Ansin, choreographer Octavio Campos, Costume Designer Yana Glushanok, Set and Puppet Designer Emil Kapelush, among other Miami-based artists.

Even though there are puppets, this isn’t to say the play is aimed solely at children. The original story, though only seven-pages long, thematically explores the limitations of religion and blind faith, human greed and a failure to accept the miraculous, even when it lands next to you. Bob Rendell, reviewing the play as performed by The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, wrote, “There are many harsh, adult and controversial ideas here. The pious villagers want the benefits offered by their heavenly angel. However, they are self-centered and content to see him abused and in pain. It would be reasonable to interpret Afar as a stand-in for the suffering Jesus.”

I’m interested to see how Cruz and The Playground Theatre create a performance both whimsical enough to appeal to children while remaining true to Marquez’s complex subject. The Playground Theatre recommends that the play is suitable for children 8 or older.

April 25 through May 20, General Admission: $20. The Playground Theatre, 9806 N.E. Second Ave., Miami Shores, Fla. 33138. For tickets and times, visit www.theplaygroundtheatre.com.