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|A CurtainUp Review
The Feast of the Goat (La Fiesta del Chivo)
By Brad Bradley
Happily, Repertorio Espanol regularly merits its devoted audience’s enthusiasm; certainly their support is warranted on this occasion, which in fact is an ideal choice to attend even for folks with little or no Spanish. Such patrons are treated to headphones with dynamic, well-timed piped-in English translations that actually are spoken by voices with good acting instincts. Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat has been given a sparkling and stirring production, filled with humanity, compassion, and humor. While entirely comfortable in its jewel box miniature stage just north of Gramercy Park, this staging would be notable company in the commercial Broadway district.
Director Jorge Ali Triana has drilled his troupe of 15 players (including one case of double casting plus a few understudies) to military precision, successfully walking an aesthetic line between conventional realism and symbolic surrealism, aptly choosing the latter for difficult scenes involving racial and sexual violence. While Triana has been influenced by some of the non-realistic staging techniques of Brecht, he rejects Brecht’s devices of actors speaking directly to the audience and of breaking the scene before the audience gets too involved. The production’s swirling energy sometimes reaches assaulting cacophony, but the central character of Urania Cabral remains a steady and mesmerizing presence in the magnificent performance of Anilu Pardo as a woman whose father weakly sacrificed her innocence to government corruption. Urania finds forgiveness of her parent impossible: Hanging over her is the constant memory that he never expressed remorse for his betrayal. Ms. Pardo and Alejandra Orozco alternate in this difficult role, and given the high level of the production, I wish I had an opportunity to see Ms. Orozco as well.
Vargas Llosa’s script essentially is a fictionalized depiction of the ugly history of General Rafael Trujillo and his cohorts in the Dominican Republic, as seen in two time periods: First, at the end of his tyrannical three-decade rule in the early 1960s, and later, in 1995 when two pawns of his excesses are ravaged beings, one psychologically, the other physically. Trujillo, while central to the plays actions, is basically a caricature here. In an ingenious casting choice , both "El Jefe" and his manipulated underling, Augustin Cabral (Urania’s father), are played to maximum effect with sensitivity and restraint by Ricardo Barber. Trujillo easily could have become a complete cartoon, and Cabral, seen almost exclusively as a mute elderly stroke victim confined to a wheelchair, also is a part that requires imagination and maturity. And while both of these roles are decidedly elderly, in Barber’s hands, neither becomes an ageist cliché.
Triana uses the Repertorio’s small space brilliantly, handling two-character scenes and huge groups with equal facility, and not a moment of waste or awkwardness is to be seen. The production is especially well-supported by the flexible spare settings and apt costume designs of Julian Hoyos and Regina Garcia. The work of Jimmy Tanaka in creating original music and Audio Zone Montreal in supplemental sound also enhance this fine production, which has a enviable wholeness.
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