Black and Brown and Blue All Over

A Soldier's Play is too at-ease, Two Sisters sparkles

But the county does have a theater devoted to producing Latino plays. That it happens to be the wealthiest, highest-profile theater in the county (with one of the whitest, most affluent audience bases in the country) is a poetic irony. South Coast Repertory, which has long worked with some of the most talented Latino writers in the business, has now taken on Nilo Cruz and his Two Sisters and a Piano. Cruz's play is a small treasure, and this production truly allows it to sparkle. Under the direction of Loretta Greco (who proves here that directors can be as imaginative as actors and playwrights), the talented cast imbues Cruz's claustrophobic play of two sisters under house arrest with a defiant breath of life. On a sublime set by Robert Brill (the scenic brains behind the national touring production of Cabaret and one of the country's foremost designers), the characters reveal the occasional courage and strength of humans, cursed though we are with fragile bodies and psyches.

If there is one word to describe the characters in this play, it's hungry-the prisoners for food, the women for men, the men for conversation, and everyone for human connection. And in that respect, the people in Two Sisters and a Piano aren't that different from any of us. Cruz's most noteworthy achievement is that by opening the window-however slightly-on the human stories taking place in an oppressed nation, he sheds a little light on the Human Story that unfolds wherever we decide to call home.

A Soldier's Play at Long Beach Playhouse's Studio Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Through May 30. $12-$15; Two Sisters and a Piano at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Through June 5. $18-$43.

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