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Theatre / Anna in the Tropics

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Anna in the Tropics is a 2003 play by Nilo Cruz.

The story is set in 1929 in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa. Santiago is the owner of a cigar factory. He and his wife Ofelia are parents to two daughters, Marela and Conchita. Conchita is married to Palomo, but the marriage is troubled; he's been cheating on her.

Everyone in the family works together, hand-rolling cigars the traditional Cuban way. Into this scene comes Juan Julian, a lector. The lector is a person who, in accordance with old Cuban tradition, reads books to the workers in the cigar factory as they roll cigars by hand. Everybody is on board with this tradition except for Santiago's half-brother Cheche, who regards it as an anachronism. The book Juan reads is Anna Karenina. The tale of a tragic Love Triangle triggers strange new emotions in the family.


  • Beastly Bloodsports: Cockfighting is a common amusement for the men.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: Ofelia does when taking the ceremonial first puff on the factory's new "Anna Karenina" cigar.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: "We hear Marela pee on herself from nervousness" says the stage direction, when she and her mother meet Juan Julian the new lector at the dock.
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: Ofelia accuses her husband of having this motive when he tries to pull her out of the party after she's drunk too much.
  • Divorce in Reno: Palomo suggests they go to Reno for six weeks after Conchita confronts him about his affair.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the first scene Santiago has lost all his money betting on cockfighting and has to hit his brother Cheche up for a loan.
  • Good Old Ways: A source of conflict. The whole business of cigar factory workers rolling cigars by hand, while someone reads to them to pass the time, is long-standing tradition. Chiche points out that they are wasting money paying a guy who not only isn't doing constructive work, he's also distracting the workers and reducing their productivity. He also wants the business to install automation to increase their output. The rest of the family rejects these ideas. Chiche is symbolic of these new ideas—he is half-Anglo and his real name is "Chester". Juan, the lector with no real business in a cigar factory, is the old ways.
  • Hangover Sensitivity: Santiago is rubbing his head the morning after the party for the new cigar.
  • Happily Married: Ofelia disapproves of Santiago drinking too much and wasting his money at cockfighting, but they get along well together.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Intentionally evoked in this 2003 play set in 1929, when Juan says of Hollywood actors, "They are all smoking little fags [cigarettes] and not cigars."
  • Shout-Out: Anna Karenina is the book that Juan reads to the workers at the cigar factory.