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A CurtainUp Review
By Jerry Weinstein
The fable begins as a vision of Erendira’s causes her grandmother’s desert house and worldly possessions to go up in flames. Grandmother demands that she compensate her for the loss and forces her into a life of prostitution. Over the years, Grandmother grows wealthy, for Erendira has become celebrated, as men line the block waiting for a brief moment in her arms. No longer chaste, her sensual appeal lies in her hope for eventual freedom.
ChingValdes-Aran, as Grandmother, anchors this interpretation of Erendira. She is at once majestic and pathetic, commanding and sallow, impervious to harm and blind to the truth. Her performance is a tightrope. She elicits terror, while managing not to overplay the character and veer into camp, allowing Elisa Terrazas to convincingly play Erendira as a desperate naif. As Erendira’s paramour Ulises, Janio Marrero fits the job description for the part- somehow he treads on the wings of an angel. With his tousled raven curls he resembles a Botticelli painting. Although he and Erendira are pure of heart, they quiver at the tyranny of Grandmother, who breathes new life into the word "diabolical."
The sprawling set is a decoupage of dreams. Done up almost as an abandoned attic – with cryptic projections on sailcloth scrims and macabre puppets (Quay Brothers-inspired?) masking the men who violently steal Erendira’s innocence. It is a theatrical canvas, both temporal and everlasting.
Todd Griffin’s spaghetti western compositions are apropos for the affair, while the choreography (including a tango borne of unmet longing), is stark but passionate. When the elements are in synchronicity, the production is a fugue-state spellbinding affair. The strength of the play is in its visual power. At times, the narration is didactic (reminding this reviewer of Rebecca Miller’s Personal Velocity), and seems hidebound, rather than surreal. The director might take Valdes-Aran’s lead and add dissonance and more whimsy into the piece. Where it goes solemn it wanes.
While Harting’s production captures a Marquezian dreamscape, the real pleasure lies in watching Ching Valdes-Aran. She threatens to eclipse all – event the text itself. She IS theater. Erendira is a ultimately a fraught journey of trauma and hope, but it carries the spirit of Garcia Marquez’s tale and gives it shape and form.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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