Ashes of Light is a family drama as moody, moving, and graceful as a plume of cigarette smoke | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Ashes of Light is a family drama as moody, moving, and graceful as a plume of cigarette smoke

Its Spanish title, La Luz de un Cigarrillo, is more fitting.

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La Luz de un Cigarrillo (literally "the light of a cigarette") is the Spanish title of Marco Antonio Rodriguez's play about a troubled man's return home for his estranged father's funeral. It's better than the awkward English title Rodriquez has chosen for the English-language version and more fitting for a play in which characters routinely tamp down their feelings with food and cigarettes. It promises the audience a story as moody, moving, and graceful as a plume of cigarette smoke, and Rodriguez delivers on that promise.

Over the course of two intense hours we get to know Rodriguez's exquisitely drawn characters intimately—the stoical, repressive, and repressed matriarch (named Luz), the artistic son she drove away, the eccentric aunt who nurtured him in ways his mother would or could not—and watch them as they try to deal with loss and regret, torn between the desire to escape and the hope of redemption.

This is a play of long-simmering grudges and sudden outbursts, but Miranda Gonzalez's ensemble play it cool, revealing their characters slowly, never falling into over-the-top telenovela-style acting (though the play, in the wrong hands, could come off like a slow soap opera). In particular, Nydia Castillo and Sipriano Cahue are riveting as the mother and son at the center of the story; they reveal in every glance and gesture what a minefield their relationship has become, and how much they yearn for something better.   v

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