Friday, July 27, 2012

Lorca in a Green Dress by Nilo Cruz

By Joe Straw

The house I used to live in had ghosts, or maybe one ghost.  She was an old wrinkled woman who had an excessively naughty time on earth and she just didn’t want to leave.  

Many times she poked her head from the attic window as I left the house and her stare scorched the back of my head.  A double take and she was gone.  

I told her (many times) that she could leave, there were other places she could go, but she wasn’t a party to that conversation. She was satisfied with turning lights on and off late at night, opening doors, picking and clawing at the ceiling, and, when you weren’t holding on to the handrail, pushing you down the stairs.  She crossed the line with the fire thing, and after I put out the fire, I ran out of that house never to return.  – The Lying Narrator

Federico Garcia Lorca was born June 5, 1898 in Granada, Spain and was murdered by fascists in 1936 on a moonless night.

“… to kill a man is to get to know him in the most intimate way.” - Lorca as Blood

Lorca in a Green Dress, by Nilo Cruz and directed by Jennifer Sage Holmes, is now playing as Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights through August 26, 2012.  Just a few steps away from your own Los Angeles neighborhood and there is plenty of street parking.

The play opens on the day, the month, and the year of his death.  In the dark, General as the Fascist (Serafin Falcon) grills a guard (Loren Fenton) about a list he has in his hands. He notices a poet on the list, Federico Garcia Lorca (Adrian Gonzales), and he asks the guard to get him.  She says they have already taken him.

And so it is that Lorca as Blood (Andrian Gonzales) lies face down after being executed by the Facists in Spain.  He is, in fact, dead.  But in the after-death, he is unaware of his predicament. 

Lorca as Blood slowly finds a reality with variations of himself in life having him come to: Lorca with Bicycle Pants (Josh Domingo), Lorca as a Woman (Tereza Meza), Lorca in a White Suit (Rajesh Gopie), and Lorca in a Green Dress (Alex Polcyn).  They all identify themselves as Federico Garcia Lorca.  They are actually other people who have died and are earning their points for ascension through acting out Lorca as Blood’s life.

Lorca as Blood is happy to see the variations of himself but sees the blood on his body and is confused as to where he is and how he got there.

“Please tell me what is this place? Who brought me here?” – Lorca as Blood

“The gypsies did.” – Lorca in a Green Dress

“The gypsies?” – Lorca as Blood

“They brought you on a green horse, in a green wind.” - Lorca as a Woman

“And where are they now?” – Lorca as Blood

“They left on a green horse, in a green wind, and left behind a green wave of dust.” – Lorca in a White Suit

Lorca as Blood believes that he is only wounded and he wants to find the way out of this place.  Little does he realize or believe that he is in purgatory. They tell him he is in the Lorca room and remind him of his death. In fact, they recreate his death. Three shots, one critical, and then two in the ass, before he expires in the moonless night.  

Lorca as Blood screams!  He wants out!  And he desperately struggles to find a way out.  But they tell him he’s quarantined for forty days.  They tell him he should be happy.  He’s been given a dream body with which to sort all of this out. Lorca as Blood does not think a body drenched in blood is a “dream body”.

Still, he doesn’t get it. Lorca as Blood believes his friend, Salvador Dali, and his reality has put them up to all of this.  It is here the General must remind him of his death. In truth, they tell him what he will experience after death including memory lapses, the rush of blood, and optical illusions.  He will also feel the pain where the bullets entered his body.

“Haven’t you hurt me enough?  What do you want from me?  What do you want?” -  Lorca as Blood

“We don’t want anything from you, Federico.” – Lorca as a Woman

And although they say they don’t want anything from Lorca as Blood, they do want to show him the way.   

But Lorca as Blood is fed up and, while they have a recess, he finds a boy who plays his younger self, Lorca in Bicycle Pants.  Bicycle Pants tells him that he is responsible for collecting his dreams and even describes them. But Lorca as Blood wants out and he is convinced Bicycle Pants knows the answer.

They tell Lorca as Blood that the Lorca Room is for him to come to terms with his existence so that he can ascend to another level. They take him through various levels of homosexual love, life and even his trial of trumped up charges.  

It is with slight trepidation that Lorca as Blood accepts his death but still trying to find the answers he asks Lorca in a Green Dress about death and ascension.  

“And how come I get to have a room?” – Lorca as Blood

“Because the control station recognizes that you are a poet, and all souls are rewarded or corrected as they merit.  Poets revive life, my dear.  Every time you write, you make us see the world in a new way,..” – Lorca in a Green Dress

Lorca in a Green Dress tells Lorca with Blood that he can break quarantine but suggests being a ghost is not such a good thing.  Better to stay here and smell whiskey than to live the life of “broken nights”.  Nights with which he could not be touch by another man.

“I’ve been humble all my life, but I always felt that I deserved to be love.” – Lorca as Blood.

The expression of the play is essentially this:  a man dies, goes to purgatory, he gets help and then moves on. But the words are critical on this barren stage, the method in which they are said, and the pictures that are used to describe the scene and the action. The action directed by Jennifer Sage Holmes could have been more creative in style and in structure; still it has a uniqueness of its own.

When the Gereral says, “stop”, the actors must change into different character, return to their character of origin, and then exeunt et al, crafting an exciting exit into the neither regions from which they came. This presents some interesting challenges for the actors, they are instructed to play out roles, stop playing roles, and then be a completely different character with their own unique objectives.  Imagination and creativity plays an important part in choosing a character with a specific objective, and then jumping in and out of the character. And one must play the word because they are the poetry that is this exciting play.

“Words are meant to be seen and to be felt. And they should come slowly and dramatically from the bottom of our souls. A verbal expression is released to make a theatrical point. If we don’t feel it, how can we live it? If we don’t breath it, how can we express it? Relax and let the words come as they must.”   - (Editor being overly dramatic.)

Adrian Gonzales as Lorca with Blood does a very nice job.  But as the character, he must really try to find a way out of purgatory.  He simply does not try hard enough or is sufficiently creative to find the way. Also, he must be completely fascinated with his alter egos as he watches them perform his life so that when they get to the part of his life that never happened, we are more fascinated by that turn of events.   Also, he stands too far away to be involved in those scenes.  Having him nearer would help his relationships with his alter egos. Gonzales has a commanding presence and his curtain call is very dramatic.

Serafin Falcon plays the General quite nicely. Actually Falcon has the look of a character that has just stepped out of a Blake Edwards’ movie. Clouseau’s counterpart if you will.  He has a very nice look.  Off stage as the General as a Fascist, his relationship with the guard should have been more concrete, more specific: General versus grunt.  It is critical that the General be curious about the poet. As the General in purgatory, he is very harsh, maybe too harsh, his job is to guide the others to offer the poet a way out and he should really control the action without appearing as a flunkie through the course of other action on stage. If you are the General and are controlling the action, be the General.

Alex Polcyn as Lorca in Green Dress has a very agreeable look.  But the characters he plays in assorted scenes should be remarkably different.  They cannot be the same.  Also he must be checking in from time to time to make sure, as the player, he is doing the right thing. The quiet moments with Lorca as Blood worked effectively but it was a bit laissez-faire, they shared the same kind of end, but Lorca In A Green Dress must get something out of his relationship with his counterpart. Still one is not completely sure what he wanted and why he wanted it.   

Josh Domingo as Lorca in Bicycle Pants also does a fine job and has a beautiful voice in one of the songs. As the young character, he is frightened about releasing too much information and not proceeding on the to next level of his journey. Why he wants to help and why he is frightened needs to be conveyed through active choices. He is a man who knows the dreams of another and should play on those dreams. He wants the dreams, knows the dreams, and wants the man who can give him those dreams.

Rajesh Gopie as Lorca in a White Suit is very capable of giving us more on stage.  Dali can be creative and as crazy as Gopie wants him to be without hurting the structure of the play.  We must see Dali’s colors. We must see what others see in Dali to make the life vivid, real, and fascinating. Also in the ride to death, we must not see the ride as a joy ride.  Rather make it a ride to death and the poetic horror it can be.

Alejandra Flores has a very nice appearance as The Flamenco Dancer.  The trick in this role is to incorporate the objective into the dance.  Aside from the sound effects of the action on stage, the dance must be about what the dancer wants to accomplish, where she is taking the dance, and what she wants of the main character.   The dance must have a reason otherwise we are left feeling bewildered.

Tereza Meza as Woman 1 did some very nice things on stage.  As Dali’s sister, we must see hope and disappointment in her portrayal.  She must hope to have the main character and must be disappointed not to have him.  What is the point of playing out a scene if there is no desire?  Desire projects truth, in life, and death.  

Loren Fenton as the guard has a demanding role.  She too is there for a reason.  She has an objective and she must find it. Carmelita Maldonado as Woman 2 does a nice job as well.

Gerardo Morales did a fantastic job as the Guitarist and played wonderfully. It was an absolutely fantastic night of music.

Edward Padilla plays Lorca in a Green Dress and Edgardo Gonzales plays the Flamenco Dancer and General but both did not play the parts the night I was there.

On opening night, one can forgive the mishaps in Jennifer Sage Holmes’ direction. While there were some very exciting moments on stage, the staging seemed at times conventional, and without complexity.  The through line seemed uncertain, and the characters unfocused in their objectives and movements on stage. The play is called Lorca in a Green Dress and Green Dress must have a dramatic impact in the end life that is Lorca as Blood.

Nilo Cruz has written a beautiful play and a wonderful story of the other side of life after death.  It is exciting to watch a poet escape purgatory with his words and wit.

Monica French, the Costume Designer, did an exceptional job of placing the characters in the period.  It was just brilliant work and extremely pleasing.

Other member of the crew were:

Juan Pablo Bustos – Dramaturg & Asst. Stage Manager
Mallory Lopez – Stage Manager
Chloe Diaz – Asst. Stage Manager & Property Design
Willy Donica, Light/Tech Designer
Rocio Ponce – Flamenco Choreography
Dante Carr – Set Carpentry
Eugenia Sevilla – Set Painter
Jorge Villanueva – Tech Operator
Soap Design Co., - Graphic Design
Angel Perez – Production Assistant
Steve Moyer PR – Press Representative

 He was running away from his color green.” – Lorca in Bicycle Pants

“And what did he see in the color green?” – Guard

“Desire until death.” – Lorca as a Woman

Casa 0101 is a beautiful theatre and an important venue for wonderful Latino actors in Los Angeles.     

Go and take a friend that loves the color green.

Reservation: 323-263-7684

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