LA Review: 'Lorca in a Green Dress'

The Center for Collaboration With the Arts at Whittier College at Casa 0101

Reviewed by Katherine Davis

July 22, 2012


Photo by Ed Krieger
After winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for his play "Anna in the Tropics," Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz wrote a less traditional, more surreal play called "Lorca in a Green Dress." Casa 0101 Theater and the Center for Collaboration With the Arts at Whittier College have joined together on a new production of this work, and they have tackled the difficult material in a way that is accessible and enjoyable.

The circumstances surrounding Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca's 1936 death are somewhat mysterious, and in "Lorca in a Green Dress," Cruz imagines the circumstances of Lorca's transition into the afterlife to be similarly hazy. The play opens when a recently murdered Lorca (Adrian Gonzalez) finds himself in the "Lorca Room," a personalized section of purgatory—or something like purgatory. There he encounters a group of spirits, each of which embodies a different aspect of his personality. A young man in bicycle pants acts out scenes from Lorca's childhood and dreams, a man in a green dress represents the poet's sensual side, a flamenco dancer clad in black stomps and claps the rhythms of his dark side, and together the group tries to make sense of Lorca's life and death.

The play is highly poetic and a little strange, so it could easily be a disaster in the wrong hands. This production does have a handful of slow, confusing moments, but through tight ensemble work and precise direction, the company has done a commendable job of making sense of the script. Aside from a few actors who look a little uncertain in their roles, the cast of nine works smoothly together. Believable and emotional as the just-deceased Lorca, Gonzalez provides sturdy leadership as the central figure in this ensemble-driven play. His final moments onstage feel sincere and bring the proceedings to a satisfying close.

Josh Domingo, as Lorca With Bicycle Pants, and Alex Polcyn, as Lorca in a Green Dress (he alternates in the role with Edward Padilla), stand out among members of the ensemble. Domingo lends giggly charm to his young boy, and Polcyn is sultry and playful in that eponymous dress.

Performances are generally strong in this production, but Jennifer Sage Holmes' seamless direction is what really makes the show work. Her beautiful, creative staging allows the actors to magically transform the stage from a sea to a truck to a Spanish childhood home to New York City and back again using only their bodies.

Spanish guitar music—including some original pieces by Christopher Davis, for which Cruz has penned lyrics—performed live by Gerardo Morales provides the evening's most enjoyable element. Morales' pre-show strumming makes it worthwhile to arrive early.

Not everyone will enjoy "Lorca in a Green Dress"—it is at times opaquely symbolic and lacks a traditional story line—but this company has put forth a strong effort interpreting Cruz's dreamlike work, and for the most part it's been very successful.

Presented by Casa 0101 and the Center for Collaboration with the Arts at Whittier College at Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 E. First St., Boyle Heights. July 20–Aug. 26. Fri. and Sat,. 8 p.m.; Sun. 5 p.m. (323) 263-7684 or www.casa0101.org.
 

 
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