Repertory Theatre’s ‘Sonia Flew’ soars

Young Sonia (portrayed by Christine de Jesus Ahsan) embraces her father (portrayed by Luis Negron) for the last time before she is sent on a plane to America.

By Mary Kate Nolan
Hometown Weekly Intern

On June 9, crowds gathered at Wellesley College to watch the Wellesley Repertory Theatre’s performance of “Sonia Flew,” by playwright Melinda Lopez. The play, directed by Lois Roach, follows the physical and emotional journey of Sonia, a Cuban girl whose parents sent her to America when she was barely 15 years old out of fear for her safety after the rise of Fidel Castro.

The warm and soft lighting inside the black box theater, coupled with the orange and yellow tones of the set, promise an intimate insight into the lives of the characters. A hanging wooden window lit with a candle gives the impression that the spectators are about to look in on some private moment. Calming sounds of the ocean draw the audience in as Sonia emerges onto the stage.

Sonia’s parents, Pilar (portrayed by Mariela Lopez-Ponce) and Orfeo (portrayed by Luis Negron) share a dance and a moment of joy amidst the dark haze of the Socialist Revolution in Cuba.

Sonia’s parents, Pilar (portrayed by Mariela Lopez-Ponce) and Orfeo (portrayed by Luis Negron) share a dance and a moment of joy amidst the dark haze of the Socialist Revolution in Cuba.

The opening scene finds Sonia as a grown wife and mother living in Minneapolis in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Still struggling to come to terms with her abrupt and traumatic departure from her home in Havana, Sonia is devastated to learn that her son, Zak, has decided to enlist in the military. Her world is once again turned upside down as a series of family fights brings to the surface deep-seated feelings of bitterness, regret, and frustration.

After the intermission, the audience is taken back to 1961, wherein the reason for Sonia’s adamant resistance to her son’s enlistment is revealed. She recollects her final days with her parents in Cuba and mourns their separation, which was not supposed to be permanent, and fears a similar fate for Zak. The play ends as it began, with the sounds of the ocean; however, this time the waves sound tumultuous and foreboding. These unsettling sounds likely mirror the minds of the audience members as they exit the theater, swimming with questions raised by the performance.

The play fearlessly confronts the tensions between survival, sacrifice, and patriotism, while giving an honest portrayal of family life and its struggles. Actor Woody Gaul, who plays Sonia’s husband, Daniel, as well as a Socialist revolutionary, Tito, says, “The playwright Melinda Lopez is so brilliant at creating a family dynamic that is so authentic.”

According to actor Zack Georgian, who coincidentally plays Zak, “Getting that heart of the family out there was one of the most important things that she kept saying.”

Based on the reactions of the audience, it is clear that the Repertory Theatre was successful in this endeavor. The selective laughter of the audience to certain lines revealed that spectators were able to identify with characters based on generational groupings. There was something for everyone in this story of family, heritage, and a search for healing. In the words of producing artistic director Nora Hussey, “What this play does … is bring us a step closer to understanding the concept of loss, and the deep human need for connection to our own history.”

Playwright Melinda Lopez teaches theater and performance at Wellesley College. In addition, she was granted a playwright residency at the Huntington Theater in Boston, where she developed “Sonia Flew.”

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