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    Doľa Rosita the Spinster

    A thorn among roses

    Jean Cocteau Rep doesn't seem to delve deep enough into Federico Garcia Lorca's "Doľa Rosita the Spinster."


    Ah, Spain, what a beautiful country! Quaint little villas with vines draping on the walls, beautiful young ladies awaiting marriage to their cousins, uncles obsessed with flowers, aunts obsessed with lace, and maids who just don't know their place. This is Granada as Lorca saw it. And this is a story as only Lorca can tell it. Of course, we are only viewing the translation of his work, as we silly Americans can't be bothered with learning a second language. What was lost in the translation? Something significant, apparently, for this production made for one long evening. Was it the translation, or the translation of the translation by The Jean Cocteau Repertory?

    Company: Jean Cocteau Repertory.
    Written by: Gwynne Edwards.
    Directed by: Ernest Johns.
    Based on Dona Rosita la soletera o El lenguaje des as flores by: Federico Garcia Lorca.
    Cast: Craig Smith, Amy Lee Williams, Carolyn Rattaray, Sara Mayer, Michael Surabian..
    Music by: Charles Berigan.
    Sound design by: Charles Berigan.
    Set design by: Roman Tatarowicz.
    Costumes by: Margaret McKowen.
    Lighting design by: David Kniep.

    Related links: Official site
    Jean Cocteau Repertory
    330 Bowery at Bond St.
    Dec. 19, 2003 - April 4, 2004

    The play is a rather straightforward one set in three acts: 1895, 1910, and 1920 respectively. First we meet the Uncle, a botanist with a feverish flower fetish. The flower in particular, and the driving symbol of the evening is the rare "rosa mutable" a flower that changes from red in the morning, to white in the afternoon, to petals falling off in the evening. Then we meet the housekeeper and the aunt, and we meet Doľa Rosita the spinster, though she isn't one quite yet. Finally in this first act we meet the object of Rosita's affection, her second cousin and fiancÄ. We find out here that the fiancÄ must leave to tend to his family's farm in a far-off land. Of course Rosita can't go. He leaves, she cries, the aunt and housekeeper get mad at the fiancÄ for reasons unknown and the first act is over. In the second act, 15 years later, he doesn't return. In the third act 10 years later, he still doesn't return, and poor Doľa Rosita is all alone and ultimately a spinster. And that's it. How sad. Go home.

    Doľa Rosita the Spinster  
    A simple story, right? Superficially, yes. Yet, below, in the great depth of human emotions, this is an extremely complex story. And this is where this production went awry. It was like watching tiny water striders skim the water, never breaking the surface tension: cute for a moment, then drearily drab. What happened? Are the actors sick of this play? Was the Rep resting on its laurels here? The only depth that poured out of the actors was in Craig Smith's portrayal of the Uncle. He has been with the company a whopping 31 seasons! He better be good. Other performance highlights came from supporting cast members Amy Lee Williams, Carolyn Rattaray and Sara Mayer, who each played dual roles with joy and abandon. And finally Michael Surabian gave us some excellent, and much needed, comic relief with his two keenly performed, vastly different characters. Other than these examples, the rest of the actors attained one level and never bothered dipping to the deep and dark, or soaring to the brilliant up there.

      Doľa Rosita the Spinster
    The direction and design, while sufficient and executed with apparently learned craftsmanship, remained, in the end, unremarkable. It was as if the obvious roadmap that Lorca laid out with his rosa mutable symbolism was for the most part cast aside. We walked away wishing we had seen Doľa Rosita in the full redness of her lovely bloom in the first act, the whiteness of her still-remaining beauty in the second, and the wilting as her petals begin to fall in the last. We wanted and needed to feel so very sorry for her and her troubles. Unfortunately, this was not the case. We came expecting to see a master playwright's work performed by a highly reputable company, and while all the bells and whistles were shiny and present, their tone was played with no passion, and we were left unfulfilled.

    FEBRUARY 27, 2004

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  • comment   from nick, Feb 10, 2007

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