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    The Foundation

    Spain and suffering

    The stage, the story and our expectations are gradually transformed in the Spanish play "The Foundation," a powerful exploration of horror and hope under fascism.


    From the beginning of "The Foundation" there are puzzling incongruities. As the birds chirp and the sun shines through the window, Rossini plays over the radio and fine wine shares space on the shelves with learned books, Thomas (Tom Lee) and Berta (Dawn Medina) share lovers' chitchat.

    Written by: Antonio Buero-Vallejo.
    Directed by: Brian Snapp.
    Cast: Tom Lee, Eric Michael Kochmer, Dawn Medina, Ian Tabatchnick, Emanuel Bocchieri, Jermaine Chambers, Kevin Kaine, Brian Calandra, Josh Mattes.
    Set design by: Tom Lee and Brian Snapp.
    Translated by: Marion Peter Holt.
    in English.
    Berta is concerned for a little lab mouse being used for experiments at The Foundation, a campus populated by some of the nation's finest minds — scientists, artists and scholars. Thomas, a novelist, says he doesn't worry for the mice, who he imagines have a blissfully ignorant life and peaceful death.

    "They don't even know what's happening to them," he insists. "If I were a mouse, I'd accept it."

    "You are a mouse and you don't accept it," prods Berta.

    Meanwhile, as the lovers cuddle, another man lies in a bed against the wall slowly dying of starvation.

    And many more oddities will crop up during the first act of this 1974 Spanish play, revealing a harsh, gray truth nothing like what Thomas imagines about this lovely intellectual retreat. Subtle changes in the story and the set show the rents in his consciousness as he, and we, learn more about this Foundation and the people in it. And the play turns into something entirely different by act two from what we thought it was in act one.

    The language in this production comes out slightly stilted — probably the result of a too-loyal or mildly antiquated translation of the original Spanish. But the play's essence comes through strongly, a story about imprisonment and freedom that grows out of the author's personal experience as a condemned man under Franco. It's a powerful work that ingeniously leads the audience on a descent into the dark heart of the fascist state. This production generally does it justice, and the surprising set design by Tom Lee and Brian Snapp deserves particular mention for making this descent an especially vivid one.

    NOVEMBER 19, 2002

    Reader comments on The Foundation:

  • Feed the Herd at its best   from Jeff, Nov 21, 2002

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