The ghost of Federico García Lorca hangs heavily over all of today’s Spanish-speaking playwrights, which is presumably why Nilo Cruz, in his first new work since the Pulitzer Prize–winning Anna in the Tropics, has chosen to exorcize it in the most aggressive way imaginable. In his new play, Beauty of the Father, Lorca’s ghost, still haunting the region where he was shot by fascists decades ago, is both the emcee who links us to the action and the hero’s best pal and confidant. That the ghost’s presence is utterly gratuitous, and that the hero, a bisexual painter and sculptor, would probably have only limited feeling for a wholly homosexual and wholly word-obsessed figure like Lorca, don’t matter to Cruz: He’s got to get the Lorca out of his system whether it helps his play or not.
And sadly, the play itself is unhelpable, replicating the structural flaw that marred Anna: It sets up a predictably disastrous situation and moves directly to the disaster without bothering to convince us there was any interesting reason to see it happen. The hero’s daughter, raised in America, turns up in Spain after a decade away, and promptly falls in love with . . . but why spoil something you can see coming a mile off? Michael Greif hasn’t helped by giving Cruz the kind of idiotic production in which Latino actors who can speak perfectly unaccented English affect thick “I weel keel heem” accents to show you how Spanish the characters are. Priscilla Lopez and Elizabeth Rodriguez bring some conviction to the absurd mess; their male counterparts are only OK. And Oscar Isaac’s rendering of Lorca as a supercilious fop should probably be blamed on the playwright and director, both of whom ought to know better.