Perhaps “Temple of the Souls,” the new musical being presented as part of NYMF, would be more powerful as an operetta, which would validate the melodrama afforded in this current production. It is yet another version of the ever-familiar love-struck youth from to different cultures, torn apart by their family and resulting in a tragic finale. Inspired by some truthful facts about the massacre of the Taino nation by the Spaniards in Puerto Rico, the fictitious love story and entangled subplots lack the unpredictable ingenuity to support the intermission less two-hour show. Creators Anita Velez-Mitchell, Lorca Peress and Anika Paris pen a laborious book with little credibility and mundane characters. Dean Landon joins Ms. Paris and Ms. Mitchell in producing conventional lyrics that are lackluster and neither subtle nor cunning. Music by Mr. Landon and Ms. Paris is pedestrian but fairs much better when serving the Taino tribal dancing and musical numbers. Ms. Peress lacks the ability of a director to extract plausible characters from her cast who rely on overacting and broad stereotypes.
The cast is uneven except for Lorraine Velez who turns in an emotional, intelligent performance as Nana. Also, Noellia Hernandez portrays the young lover Amada with innocence and the craft to move the character forward gaining strength and conviction.
Kudos to this production for developing a cast that is true to its Latino roots. The opening dance sequence thrives on the native ancestry of the Taino, and the music celebrates their tribal culture. In fact, one of the best musical numbers in the show is the reprise of “I’m Not Dreaming” in Spanish. The romantic language moves this duet to another level that is real and true to the characters existence, overflowing with emotion, reflecting love for each other and their heritage. This number may also stand out because it differs from the usual American Broadway pop style the remainder of the score encounters. Perhaps there is some confusion as to what the project wants to be and what it wants to accomplish. Too much material based on factual history obstructs the fictitious love story that is pure folklore and a capable vehicle to deliver the themes of racism, abuse and male chauvinism, while strongly conveying the pride of a Puerto Rican Heritage.
TEMPLE OF THE SOULS
The production features Danny Bolero, Jacob Gutierrez, Noellia Hernandez, Andres Quintero, and Lorraine Velez. The ensemble includes Ari Aaron, Jorge Enrique Barranco, Theresa Burns, Catalina Gaglioti, Val Nuccio, Isabel Plana, Miguel A. Sierra, and Robert Zelaya.
The production features scenic design by Jennifer Varbalow, projection design by Jan Hartley, mask design by Marla Speer, costume design by Lisa Renee Jordan, and lighting design by Jason Fok. Kenneth Goodwin is the sound designer and C. Renee Alexander is the AEA stage manager. Production photos by John Quilty.
The production will run through Sunday, July 23, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. at The Acorn Theater at Theatre Row, located at 410 West 42nd Street (between 9
th and 10th Avenues on the south side of 42nd Street). General Admission tickets are $29.75. For reservations and information (including cast and creative team) visit http://www.nymf.org/festival/2017-events/temple-souls/ or call 212-352-3101. Running time is 110 minutes.
Photo: Andres Quintero and Noellia Hernandez in “Temple of the Souls.” Credit: John Quilty.