Miracle Theatre's production of Antonio Skármeta's Ardiente Paciencia—Spanish for "burning patience"—is a dizzying and viscerally funny exercise in metaphors and layers. For the young Mario and Beatriz, patience is what they lack: Their burning desire leads to a child, but they're not solely to blame. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, played by the regal Enrique E. Andrade, is Mario's poetic and romantic mentor as he pursues Beatriz in the small fishing village of Isla Negra. Amid the driftwood and squawking seagulls, Neruda bides his time while Mario, the postman, delivers him correspondence to his lonely home—in an elegant touch, the poet's handwriting covers the floor and walls of the set. Neruda isn't alone for long: Beatriz's mother, Doña Rosa, is furious at his meddling, and there may be no better actress to show hilarious, frantic anger than Sofia May-Cuxim. Her threats to gouge out Mario's eyes lead to the finest metaphor of the play: Were Rosa to do so, Neruda says that Mario's eyes would be "empty as beggar's cups."
Though the all-Spanish production, supertitled in English, skimps on Nerudaâs quirks, his humor and capacity for love suffuse the show. By act two, Ardiente Pacienciaâs tone has turned dark and militaristic. It feels like a different play, but rightly so: After all, the poet it honors could write âDeath is the stone into which our oblivion hardens,â and then, in the very next line, âI kiss happiness into your lips."