Saturday, February 17, 2018

Astucias Por HEREDAR--Milagro—SE Portland

The Art of Comedy

     The full title of this ribald, period comedy is (I guess, since I don’t speak or read Spanish and there was no translation in the program) “Astucias Por HEREDAR un sobrina a un tio” written by Fermin de Reygadas Vitorica and directed and mask designs by Robi Arce.  It is playing at their space, 525 SE Stark St. (parking can be a challenge in this area), through March 3rd.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-236-7253.

     Humor is very much an individual and/or cultural “sport.”  To put it simply, what is funny to one person may not be to another.  And in Period plays of this broad humor, from the times of the Greeks and Romans, to Shakespeare, through Vaudeville, to the Marx Brothers & Three Stooges and beyond (the musical, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” is a good example of this type of comedy), a couple of items seemed universal in their themes—Social & Political Satire.  And so it is with this type of theatre, Commedia dell’Arte.

     The common elements seem to be masks (or exaggerated make-ups), slapstick, bawdy (and body)/physical humor, rapid-fire delivery, asides, and plenty of mime, madcap mischief and music.  This production has all of those colorful elements.  But you also need people who understand how to present this art form.  And, we’re in luck with this cast, director and writer, who have captured all the nuisances with bold strokes and sparing no feelings.  It is gutsy and gritty and a pie-in-the-face to all those who think they are better than anyone else.  It is not accidental that the servants in these stories are often the wise fools who, although tripping over their own feet much of the time, will expose hypocrisy in all its ugly glory!

     The story is of a very rich and ditzy uncle, Don Lucas (Yan Collazo) of a family, and who is, we suppose, on his last legs and his inheritance is up for grabs.  But he has a desire or two left that he pointedly wants to release before he passes into that netherworld.  One desire being, who to leave his vast fortune to:  his poor relatives, his faithful servants, or his devoted nephew, Don Pedro (Enrique Andrade).  His second, more pressing desire, is to marry a teenage girl, Doña Isabel (Marian Méndez)—not the sharpest knife in the drawer--that he’s taken a fancy to.  But her heart (and other related parts) has been given to his nephew.  And her greedy mother, Doña Teresa (Bibiana Lorenzo Johnston), is all too willing to give her consent.

     Meanwhile, back at the hacienda, his two servants, the winsome, Lucia (Verónika Nuñez) and the wily, Crispin (Carlos Adrián Mananzo), have been conniving, with the rest of the players, on how to get their own large share of the whole enchilada, even resorting to role-playing (Mananzo) of poor relatives, and even the uncle himself at one point.  And assorted other characters are revealed, such as the ladies’ servant, a doctor, a clerk, etc. (all wonderfully portrayed by Sara Fay Goldman).  To discover the outcome, you’ll just have to see it.  But, be warned, the humor is definitely of the PG-13 type and could offend some people.

     The success of this show lies in the presentation and they know exactly what they’re doing in that regard.  The masks by Arce are terrific and very much of the period.  And his direction, keeping the rather verbose story moving at a rapid pace, is amazing, the actors must be exhausted by the end.  The actors are all very resourceful and understand this genre to a tee.  And the clever set (Blanca Forzán) and changes, added to its success.  The only thing disconcerting to this gringo, not being able to speak the language, as it’s all performed in Spanish, is the annoyance of having to read the English sub-titles and missing some of the intricate humor.  But that is my bad, not theirs.
I recommend this show.  
     If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


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