El caballero del milagro
nytheatre.com review by Montserrat Mendez
October 29, 2009
With merriment and song, Teatro Circulo's production of the classic Lope deVega play El caballero del milagro launches itself at the audience at the speed of a flight of bumble bees, never to stop until its positively charming conclusion. For the thing about bumble bees is that they make honey. And this is a honeycombed production of the play, sweet, spirited, and joyful.
It's also impressive, in a way I never thought about. I am used to reading translations of de Vega's plays, even though Spanish is my first language. While watching this production, however, I was amazed at the power of my own language. WOWSER! It's a stunning language. I mean, they don't call it one of the romantic languages for nothing. But, this was the first time I saw it delivered on the same level as Shakespeare and it definitely made an impression.
The story involves Luzman, a Spanish gentleman living in Rome, with a quick wit, and the inability to tell the truth. Into his web of deceit, he weaves three ladies, each more beautiful than the next and each with something that Luzman desperately wants: money. Through his lies he fires off a series of mistaken identities, all the more added to by the lies of everyone else. There is hardly an honest, truthful soul to be found in this play and the audience is all the richer for it.
A play like this rests on its central performance, and Juan Luis Acevedo, in the role of Luzman, does not disappoint. He gives an agile and carefully calibrated performance. His every speech is delivered as if he is savoring every syllable of every word. And his facial expressions and command of his body are fantastic to say the least. In the play, Luzman states that he lies in order to survive, but Acevedo makes him a man who clearly just enjoys telling a good fib. And why shouldn't he, life is so mundane, so boring, who hasn't told a lie now and then to get a little excitement or to get out in or out of trouble? He makes lying very appealing and were it not for the price he pays, I would consider it as a career option should this theatre thing not work out for me!
I also enjoyed the ladies he wooed; Illiana Garcia is appropriately coquettish as Beatriz, Rita Ortiz hilariously sweet and flirtatious as Isabela. But it is Eva Cristina Vasquez as Octavia who truly awes with her performance. Nearly busting out of her corset, she storms through her role in a fury of icy stares and sharp words.
The rest of the cast is uniformly strong, although I suspected that some of the actors are not used to working with such a rich text, still everyone of them gave it their all, and it was exciting and a little exhausting to witness.
Technical elements are all top-notch, especially the costumes by Gloria Saez, which are nothing short of magnificent.
This is a good production, well staged. They kept it simple and sweet, and threw all the emphasis on deVega's words, and to have heard them for the first time in their intended tongue was a really neat gift.