Antonia Rey, Latin Actress of Stage and Screen, Dies at 92

Antonia Rey, Latin Actress of Stage and Screen, Dies at 92

In her native Cuba in the 1950s, Antonia Rey was a leading lady of the stage, playing Madge in William Inge’s “Picnic,” the title character in George Bernard Shaw’s “Candida” and Elizabeth Proctor in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”

But when Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and established a Communist dictatorship, Ms. Rey and her husband, Andres Castro (no relation), a prominent theater director, were forced to consider their options: Stay in Cuba, secure in their theater world but living under a repressive regime, or flee to the United States.

They fled, in 1961.

Ms. Rey, who died on Feb. 21 at 92, went on to become a busy actress in New York, with scores of small parts on the stage (including in “A Streetcar Named Desire”), in movies (“Klute”) and on television (“Who’s the Boss?”).

But with few leading roles available for Hispanic actresses in the New York theater world of her era, she would not regain the stature she had achieved in Havana. Still, she did not regret leaving.

“She never complained about it,” her niece, Nina Rangel, said in a telephone interview. “She had her freedom, and she followed her passion.”

In Cuba, Ms. Rey and her husband had been a high-profile couple, and Castro had tried to entice them to stay. He promised them they could run the National Theater, where Ms. Rey could have her pick of roles and her husband could be its director.

But the harsh reality of living under Communism became clear as the government began expropriating land and property. Ms. Rey and her husband knew they had to leave.

They joined the first wave of Cuban exiles, many of them wealthy professionals. They had visas and could board flights to Miami, though they could take nothing with them except the clothes they were wearing.

“She said her hair turned gray that day, there was so much stress,” Barbara Eda-Young, a close friend and fellow actor, said in a telephone interview. “She used to say, ‘Cuba is a four-letter word.’ ”

Most Cuban exiles settled in Miami, but Ms. Rey and her husband continued on. They wanted to restart their lives in New York because it was the center of the theater universe, though they had no family or friends there.

She was able to get into acting fairly quickly. “She met someone who got her a small part, and one thing led to another,” Ms. Young said.

Her Broadway debut came in 1964, when she landed a role in the chorus in “Bajour,” starring Chita Rivera. She played a Mexican woman in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and had small roles in two other productions of Tennessee Williams plays, “The Rose Tattoo” and “Camino Real.”

She appeared in 30 movies, including as the landlady in “Klute,” a 1971 crime thriller with Jane Fonda. Other films of hers included “Hair,” “Moscow on the Hudson,” “Coogan’s Bluff,” “The Lords of Flatbush” and “Jacob’s Ladder.”

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