The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted
by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others
by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review
the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.
Courage To Right A Woman's Wrongs
Red Bull Theater November 2020
comedy-drama by a little-known writer from the Spanish Golden Age proves
very adaptable to the new art form of Zoom Theatre, in this production
by New York's Red Bull Theater.
Agravio y Mujer, by Ana Caro de Mallén
(1590-1546) mixes high drama with broad comedy, as characters are likely
to speak of – and be sincerely moved by – Honour, Loyalty and True Love
one moment and make fools of themselves the next. And because the play
is built largely on soliloquies and longer speeches, putting the actors
in separate windows onscreen doesn't seriously hurt the sense of reality
In a cast full of Spanish nobles, Don Juan woos Estella, who is also being courted by two other men. But Don Juan previously seduced and abandoned Leonora, who has followed him disguised as a man, Leonato.
Inevitably, Estella falls for Leonato, Leonora finds herself fighting a duel of honour with Don Juan, and at one point there are two separate secret assignations going on simultaneously in the dark, with one person in each pair thinking he or she is making love to someone other than they are.
It all comes out all right in the end, with either honour (Don Juan and
Leonora), true love (Estella and one of her swains) or convenience (a
couple of left-over characters noticing each other at the last moment)
this, and a few subplots, is accomplished by ten actors each sitting in
their own homes in cities across America, talking to their computers.
The device works, with some clever manipulation of the size and position
of the windows helping to show who's dominant in a scene, who's
eavesdropping, and who's entering or leaving. The only technical
glitches are with the sound balance, some actors coming through much
louder or softer than others.
acting levels are also uneven, not in quality but in styles. While some
in the cast adopt a rather formal and classical mode, others try to be
more animated and natural, while still others choose a very modern and
colloquial sound. Director Melia Bensussen, while doing an admirable job
of directing traffic, hasn't brought everybody into the same reality.
must be the frustration of performing in a vacuum while sitting in front
of a camera leads almost everyone to a bit (or more) of facial and vocal
overacting in external and signifying ways.
The most successful in avoiding temptation, though not always operating in the same performance style as each other, are Natascia Diaz as Leonora, Alfredo Narciso as Juan and Ryan Quinn as the guy who eventually gets Estrella.
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