Fourteen years ago, a fairly obscure play by a very obscure playwright surprised the world by winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play had never been staged in New York — it had premiered in Coral Gables — and it had to compete with one of Edward Albee’s best plays, “The Goat — or Who Is Sylvia?” to win the Pulitzer.
“Anna” is next up in the Bradenton Kiwanis Theater at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. The Manatee Players production opens Thursday.
The Nilo Cruz play is set in 1929 in the Ybor City area of Tampa, back in the days when it was the center of the nation’s cigar industry, and cigars were rolled by hand. The cigar rollers would hire “lectors” to read books and newspapers to them as they worked their repetitive jobs, often in stifling Florida heat.
In “Anna,” a lector is reading Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” to the workers in a family-run cigar factory. Tolstoy’s powerful story proves to have parallels to the real lives of the workers, and causes turmoil in the family as long-hidden infidelity, money problems and violence become apparent.
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After “Anna” won the Pulitzer, it made it to Broadway, with a well-received production that starred Jimmy Smits as the lector, Daphne Rubin-Vega (who played Mimi in the original Broadway production of “Rent”) and David Zayas from “Dexter.”
Details: Oct. 12-29, Bradenton Kiwanis Theater at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $25. 941-748-5875, manateeperformingartscenter.com.