Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
Surrealism in Boyle Heights: “Lorca in a Green Dress” sweeps into Casa 0101
Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz may be best known locally for his Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Anna in the Tropics,” a tale of a Cuban cigar-making family in Florida, but the play he wrote just afterward reflects a special interest of his. “Lorca in a Green Dress” examines the life and death of Frederico Garcia Lorca. Now seen as one of Spain’s great poets and playwrights, Lorca’s surrealist friendships, populist if not socialist leanings and homosexuality made him dangerous enough to be executed by the forces of Francisco Franco in 1936, at the age of 38. Cruz has translated Lorca’s plays, and his knowledge of the man through his art is reflected in this work of his own.
Now, at The New Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights, “Lorca in a Green Dress” undresses Lorca’s life. The setting is a kind of purgatory into which Lorca lands following his murder. There, he is to come to terms with the fact he is dead, in part by facing up to the many aspects of his personality and the most impactful moments of his brief existence. This is death as a merit system, with those who perform hoping to earn points to a differing level of afterlife. We watch Lorca navigate this Dali-esque place.
Central to this is Adrian Gonzalez as “Blood” – the person of Lorca who has arrived in this space. Gonzalez plays the great poet as a comparative innocent, refusing to be dead, reminiscing about adult friendships and childhood joys with a kind of wide-eyed, passionate delight. Even in sequences depicting the horror of death, this uplift seems to become the energy of the entire production.
As those tasked with Lorca’s adjustment, a few stand out most specifically. Rajesh Gopie creates a sophisticated, warm and charming Salvador Dali, among other people as “White Suit.” Sarafin Falcon, as the “General” in charge of this holding area carries himself just right, with a crispness of attitude and of voice which vibrates authority and control. Josh Domingo’s youngster in “Bicycle Pants” evokes both pictures of Lorca’s youth and the more adult worries of a longtime afterlife denizen with a clear balance. Alex Polcyn gives that viscerally feminine part of Lorca, evidenced by his “Green Dress,” enough subtlety – occasional dress-wearing notwithstanding – to avoid being a stereotype.
Teresa Meza and Carmelita Maldonado prove very versatile as they provide all the women in Lorca’s life, from his mother to Dali’s sister. Loren Fenton, despite a somewhat unfortunate costume, provides suitable authoritative stance as the “Guard.” Alejandra Flores becomes the soul of Spain, and a symbol of the gypsies Lorca stood up for, as the “Flamenco Dancer,” yet in this there is a question. Flores moves well, thanks to Rocio Ponce’s choreography, but is obviously not an actual Flamenco dancer – a precise and difficult skill. It seems odd that, in an area as large as L.A. one could not be found who would play the part. On the other hand, guitarist Gerardo Morales is the genuine article, even stamping the ground to cover for Flores’ lack of heel work.
Director Jennifer Sage Holmes has given this piece a coherence, providing imagery and pacing which build both the sense and the surrealism of the play into a working whole. A professor at Whittier College, she has also connected this production to their Center for Collaboration with the Arts, of which she is Director. As such, many of the backstage personnel for this production are current students or graduates of the Whittier theater program, enhancing this theater’s push to bring the arts to, and encourage participation in the arts by the Boyle Heights neighborhood.
Operating with a minimalist set by Holmes and Edward Padilla, and costumed by Monica French to have a solidly period feel, “Lorca in a Green Dress” is an examination of what matters in life – what should be held onto, and what can be left behind. It will also, if you don’t know much about Frederico Garcia Lorca, leave you with a curiosity about this man, whose plays have become such classics one always wonders what he might have done with a longer life.
Come early to this production, and take in the art exhibit which accompanies it. “Liminal” focusses on the ephemeral, on dreams, and on transformation – a good primer before seeing the play.
What: “Lorca in a Green Dress” When: Through August 26, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays Where: The New Casa 0101 Theater, 2101 E. First Street (at St. Louis Street), in Boyle Heights How Much: $20 general, $17 students/seniors/groups, $15 Boyle Heights residents with ID Info: (323) 263-7684 or http://www.casa0101.org