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The Girl Who Waters Basil & The Nosy Prince
Federico García Lorca's first stage works were puppet plays for friends and family. In retrospect, at least, the performances were anything but ordinary. There was not only Lorca's text to enjoy. Manuel de Falla played an accompaniment of current classical music on piano and Hermenegildo Lanz designed the puppets. While each of the participants went on to bigger and better things, there is a lot of charm in the script to The Girl Who Waters Basil now on view at The Public Theater.
Cuban-based Teatro de las Estaciones is here with their own version of the short play for seven puppets. Engaging puppeteer Rubén Dario Salazar in sailor garb single-handedly does the honors. To start he tells of Lorca's four-month stay in Cuba, where the poet went directly after his time in New York. Salazar gets into an animated conversation with Lorca appearing in hand puppet guise with signature white suit about his time on the island. Literary society feted him, and per Salazar, Lorca developed a love for Cuba that lasted for the rest of his brief life. Salazar flips through a series of images hanging on his chest to tell Lorca's story to lively Cuban music while the Lorca puppet and a mulatta Cuban woman look on. A smoking model steamship dances through the air to mark Lorca's coming and departing. To begin the play proper, Salazar opens a large green suitcase that Lorca has left on the dock for a sailor friend. Inside are a toy stage with backdrops and the script.
The play in several scenes is rather slight. The questioning Prince falls in love with the Shoemaker's daughter Irene, who comes out to water her basil plants every day. Irene's father opposes her interest in a prince and she seems indifferent to the Prince in disguise as a grape seller. A few quirky wisemen later (the play was written for Twelfth Night festivities on Epiphany), Irene herself appears disguised as a sage. After some clever conversation, she reveals herself to the Prince and they can get married.
Sporting brightly colored costumes, the puppets in this production are made from papier-mâché and moved about by sturdy rods attached to the heads. Arms have a springy mechanism that makes them wave up and down. Salazar collaborated with dramaturg Freddy Artiles to develop the witty sailor concept to introduce the Lorca puppet play and explain his connection to Cuba. Because The Girl Who Waters Basil happens to be by a famous author, it would be interesting to find seeds of Lorca's later dramatic output. Maybe the only device that stands out is his use of disguises and the character of Irene, who is as astute as any of Goldoni's feminine tricksters.
On view until October 8 in the basement of Cooper Union are color reproductions of the designs for the first performance in 1923 of Lorca's play as well as the original puppets. Entitled Forms in Motion and curated by Leslee Asch and Barbara Stratyner the exhibit also includes materials relating to Lorca's other puppet plays and puppets by contemporary artists.
©Copyright 2000, Elyse
THE GIRL WHO WATERS BASIL & THE NOSY PRINCE
Puppet play by Federico García Lorca
Performed by Teatro de las Estaciones
Puppeteer: Rubén Dario Salazar
Translation: Rubén Dario Salazar and Freddy Artiles
Design: Zenen Calero
Choreography: Liliam Padrón
Music: Jorge Luis Montaña and traditional
Dramaturg: Freddy Artiles
Shiva Theater, The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, NYC
Performances: 9/20/2000 through 9/24/2000
Running time approximately 45 minutes
Reviewed by David Lipfert based on 9/21 performance.
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