Arena’s ‘Celia and Fidel’ could not be more timely: Heather Velazquez

Arena’s ‘Celia and Fidel’ could not be more timely: Heather Velazquez

When Celia and Fidel—now in a extensive-delayed entire world premiere at Arena Stage—opens, the heroine of the title, Celia herself, is useless.

Yet, her ghost proceeds to haunt Fidel, criticizing his speeches (they are all far too very long) and his self-aggrandizing conduct. But her arguments, like her persona, have no influence.

Andhy Mendez (Fidel Castro) and Heather Velazquez (Consuelo) in Eduardo Machado’s Celia and Fidel.’ Photograph by Margot Schulman.

It is still left to Consuelo, the freshly drafted replacement, to test to fill her predecessor’s footwear. In this fictional recreation of a instant in history, the spunky idealist tries to get the aging Castro—a Cuban hero teetering on the edge of dictatorship—to do what’s right for the state.

The time is 1980 and disaster looms. (For a superb summary of these functions, together with the U.S. blockade, verify out Jordan Wright’s critique in DC Metro Theater Arts.)

According to Heather Velazquez, who performs the purpose of Consuelo, the present-day production could not be extra timely. “We’re observing an correct replay of the situations of 1980,” Velazquez claimed, pointing out that the disaster in Cuba, now as then, is the end result of rampant injustice.

“The abundant take in steak while the lousy go hungry and die of COVID,” she extra. “As a consequence, there could not be a far better time to reopen this perform.”

Whilst the abrupt closing in March 2020 was devastating, it authorized time for the playwright, Eduardo Machado, to rethink the trajectory of the drama.

Arena’s ‘Celia and Fidel’ could not be more timely: Heather Velazquez
Heather Velazquez

That was wonderful for Velazquez, who in authentic everyday living is the playwright’s cousin. “Eduardo understood that there have been troubles,” the actress reported, incorporating that the purpose of Consuelo has been substantially strengthened and enlarged, from comic foil to startling voice of the folks.

Even with the shock of opening and closing on the exact night, and then waiting so very long to reopen, the forged of Celia and Fidel stays the exact same.

“It was a gutsy conclusion to provide us all back again,” Velazquez mentioned, crediting Molly Smith, Arena’s artistic director, with the determination to mount the display, which is the seventh in the theater’s Electrical power Performs initiative.

“Molly is an actor’s desire, a director who will make actors believe about the roles in ways that they would not usually have done,” mentioned Velazquez, pointing out that Celia and Fidel is more than just a closeup of revolution on the brink of tyranny.

Marian Licha (Celia Sánchez), Liam Torres (Manolo Ruiz), Heather Velazquez (Consuelo), and Andhy Mendez (Fidel Castro) in Eduardo Machado’s Celia and Fidel.’ Picture by Margot Schulman.

“My character—Consuelo—is a farmer’s daughter, a uncomplicated peasant whose loved ones was incredibly weak, downtrodden by a corrupt governing administration. Castro virtually lifted them up,” she reported. “So she idolizes him. But she wants him to transform, to preserve the revolution, not finish it. What she needs is for him to close the American embargo and transfer on.

“During the Cuban Revolution, every person shouted, ‘My Region or Demise!’ Today,” the actress ongoing, “the slogan is ‘Patria y Vida—My Country and Existence!’”

Whilst Velazquez and Machado are cousins, they did not meet up with till 15 decades ago. Like many immigrant families, theirs headed for distinct parts of the region when they arrived, with his settling in California and hers in Florida.

When they last but not least met, it was at a relatives reunion in Miami. “It was a magical meeting,” Velazquez said. Whilst a generation apart—she is the daughter of the playwright’s initial cousin—the two bonded right away. “He was already a successful playwright, and I had been performing considering that I was 12.”

The two have been shut at any time since, with Velazquez showing up in several of Machado’s performs, which include Pipeline at Lincoln Heart, American Mariachi at the Denver Center, and Rosario and the Gypsies at Theatre for the New Town. Now, both of those stay in the New York space, she in a tiny apartment in Astoria, Queens, and he in Upstate New York.

Operating Time: Two several hours, with a single 15-minute intermission.

Celia and Fidel plays by November 21, 2021, in the Kogod Cradle at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth Street SW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($40–$95) may perhaps be obtained on-line, by cell phone at 202-488-3300, or at the Arena Stage sales office Tuesday via Saturday from midday until 8 p.m. for phone purchases and starting 90 minutes prior to every single performance right until curtain for in-person buys. For info on price savings systems these kinds of as pay back-your-age tickets, university student reductions, Southwest Evenings, and hero’s special discounts, pay a visit to

The digital program can be viewed right here.

COVID Safety: Proof of vaccination towards COVID-19 and image identification will have to be demonstrated to enter the making. Arena’s comprehensive protection protocols are in this article.

A powerful and significant ‘Celia and Fidel’ at Arena Stage evaluation by Jordan Wright