Asi que pasen cinco años (Once Five Years Pass)
nytheatre.com review by Heather J. Violanti
January 23, 2011
Lorca’s Así que pasen cinco años (Once Five Years Pass) is rarely performed—it was last seen in New York in an English translation by Caridad Svich at INTAR in 1998—so it’s exciting to see it once more, eloquently presented at Repertorio Español. Artistic director René Buch directs a coolly elegant production that, while sometimes lacking in fire, always respects Lorca’s text.
Así que pasen cinco años is from Lorca’s later years—spookily, it was completed just five years before his execution by Fascist forces in Spain’s Civil War. Its surrealism may surprise people familiar with Lorca primarily through Blood Wedding or The House of Bernarda Alba. While those plays display Lorca’s rich lyricism, they are, at least on the surface, realistic. Así que pasen cinco años is different. Scenes melt into each other with dreamlike strangeness; time bends; animals talk; and death appears in unexpected guises.
The play tells the story of a Young Man who postpones marriage to his fiancée “once five years pass.” Only once those five years pass, seemingly in an instant, she is not the naïve young girl he thought she was, nor is he the virile lover she desires. Meanwhile, the Young Man has completely ignored the sad Typist who adores him, possibly ruining his one chance at happiness.
This central narrative is disrupted by various fantastic interludes: a Friend sings about the women who live in raindrops; a ghostly Boy and a slinky Cat discuss death; a Harlequin and Clown sing of love; a Mannequin in a wedding dress mourns the son she will never have if the Young Man never marries; a Mask laments her lost lover. Each moment appears random, yet as the play progresses, it’s clear that everything intersects with the strange, precise logic of a dream.
René Buch is an expert interpreter of Lorca (he’s helmed three productions of The House of Bernarda Alba alone), and it shows in his masterful direction. He’s smoothly orchestrated Lorca’s text with stylized, stately grace, alternating between expressionistic direct address in the surreal moments to sharply heightened realism in the more conventional dialogue scenes. More often than not, the raw emotion behind Lorca’s sensuous poetry bursts through, as in the heartbreaking despair of the Young Man about the son he will never know, the Fiancee’s erotic encounter with her dream lover, or the Typist’s doomed longing. The entire cast performs their roles with impassioned clarity. Many double or triple roles, clearly distinguishing between them.
As ingeniously designed by Roberto Weber Federico, this is minimalist Lorca. The characters are costumed with a mixture of realistic yet streamlined detail (the men’s suits, the women’s sweeping dresses) and abstraction (lycra for the circus sequence, lycra for the Cat, a glittering lace veil and bodysuit for the Mannequin, a white-feathered hat for the talking Mask). Movement director Fernando Then’s adept choreography mixes circus-style acrobatics with stately ritualized gesture.
There were moments when I longed for more spectacle and spark, particularly in the beautiful yet oddly measured circus sequence, or the dreamy duet between the Boy and Cat, yet overall this is fine, straightforward production of a seldom-seen Lorca work.