Angie Williams, Guillermo Sollano & Clarena Francis in Divorciadas, Evangelicas y Vegetarianas
Photo-El Delirio Producciones
Divorciadas, Evangelicas y Vegetarianas
By Gustavo Ott
Directed by Angie Williams & Guillermo Sollano
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2015 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Watching a Spanish-language play with English supertitles for the second time, I found myself questioning the validity of attempting a review (I don’t speak Spanish). In my previous venture reviewing such a production, there were only two actors, and the material was dominated by monologues and poetical language that gave the separation between the supertitles and the action onstage more room to breathe.
For this production of Divorciadas, Evangelicas y Vegetarianas, the rapid exchange of dialogue made following supertitles an even greater challenge, and several moments where the English translation fell behind the live action only made matters worse. Was I getting everything I needed?
The largely Spanish-speaking audience was responsive and seemed to enjoy themselves, even the group that arrived a full 30 minutes after the announced curtain time (what’s up with that?). I guess if you can still have a good time after missing about a quarter of the play, the production must be doing something right.
The plot is barely there, an associative comedy of manners and social observations among three characters: Gloria, a vegetarian, Beatriz, a divorcee, & Paco, an evangelical Christian. The first scene introduces the two women meeting for the first time on a commuter train platform, the aggressive, motor-mouthed Gloria (a dynamic Angie Williams) hardly letting the more passive Beatriz (Clarena Francis) get a word in edgewise before a moment of near-tragedy. Paco (a very funny Guillermo Sollano) arrives in scene two, a corpulent, slightly clownish figure presented with a touch of slapstick. The three embark on a wilderness excursion, the women jogging, and Paco struggling to keep up with them on a bicycle.
It was a genial enough comedy, and there was fair commitment from the cast, but to me it seemed slight. It is difficult to be certain, but I felt a little disassociated from the material culturally, and that, combined with my concern about keeping up with the supertitles, leaves me wondering if, in all fairness, I can offer a meaningful critique of the play itself. But those were my impressions.
This production is donating proceeds to the local Gilda’s House, a national support organization for families of cancer patients. The connection is a personal one, as co-director Angie Williams has publicly shared her own recent health struggles that brought her to Gilda’s House. The curtain speech (in both English and Spanish) in front of a large Gilda’s Club banner onstage, took longer than usual to explain this context, and added an undercurrent of added emotion to the evening.
The fact that said banner remained in place during the first scene was an unfortunate distraction and I hope was simply an error on opening night. Yet the set design features names of cancer patients written in chalk on most of the walls. This is also curious since cancer is only mentioned tangentially in the play and is not a central theme or preoccupation of the story. The blurring of the unassailably worthy fundraising cause and the production design only serves to undercut the impact of the play itself.
I suppose it matters little to the Spanish speaking members of the community who seem ready to devour earnest attempts to deliver theatre from noted playwrights like Gustavo Ott. Given the limited pool of experienced actors fluent in the language, there are tremendous challenges in choosing and mounting worthy material. In Divorciadas, for example, the play was written for three women, but the producers here made the choice to revise the text to accommodate Senor Sollano in the role. The intriguing result is that Paco becomes either a “neuter”, which is a very old stereotype of a male character entirely lacking in sexual context, or a straightforwardly gay man who is comically absorbed in his faith. Whether or not this was the producer’s intention, either can be seen as provocative.
Louisville currently hosts two companies mounting Spanish language productions, and El Delirio is the second to attempt to employ supertitles to entice a bi-lingual expansion of their audience. Divorciadas, Evangelicas y Vegetarianas is one of the more accessible plays that have been offered from either company; the one most like some of the comedies that can be found on Univision, and the reports are that they are selling out the first weekend’s performances. If your interest is piqued by Spanish language theatre, check them out, but get your tickets ASAP!
Divorciadas, Evangelicas y Vegetarianas
January 22, 23, 24, 29, 30 & 31, 2015 @ 7:30pm
El Delirio Producciones
at The Bards Town Theater
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at the Louisville Visual Art Association during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.[/box_light]