Get Cultured — February 12, 2015 at 1:17 pm

“Eyes For Consuela” is a Technical Joy

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Richard Fiske & Roberto Adolpho (2)-Eyes for Consuela-Photo by John Robert Hoffman

“Eyes For Consuela” is a surrealist exploration of love, life, and death set deep in the Mexican jungles in the late 90’s. Written by Sam Shepard, the play pits Henry, an American man running away from the north, against the Mexican Jungle and more precisely Amado, his torturer. As the night goes on to the next day, our two protagonists start talking both simply and philosophically about love and what it takes. Mostly, with one character holding a knife to the other character’s face and demanding his eyes. I mean this is a Shepard play, what is a little love talk without his signature violence?

The White Horse Theater Company production of Shepard’s late 90’s play works in many ways, so it’s hard when you realize many others do not. Before I talk about the play itself a little more, because I do feel a lot that didn’t work comes from the text, I want to talk about the production itself. After all, that is what you are going to go see.

I want to start by giving Cyndy A. Marion credit for her outstanding work. Both the director and artistic director, you can feel the passion of her work throughout every aspect of this production. The set, designed by Andis Gjoni, helped transport us to this jungle with ease. Simple, yet evocative, the set is complimented by the incredible sound design made by Andy Evan Cohen. Their work combined created a vivid recreation of the humid yet inspiring setting where our characters live. Debra Leigh Siegel, the lighting designer, made sure to set the mood perfectly as the rest of the team completes the director’s vision in unison.

Richard Fiske & Roberto Adolpho-Eyes for Consuela-Photo by John Robert Hoffman

Sadly, I wish I could say the same about the performances, with the exception of Richard Fiske, whose heart and soul was in full display with every choice he made. Some of them work better than others, but his work shined throughout. When he spoke toward us, I was interested in what he had to say. And what he showed me was a broken man, scared of losing his wife but stubborn enough to hide in a jungle. His actions demand the attention of the other characters, to the point that he carried the other one’s emotions when they couldn’t portray it themselves. Roberto Adolpho (Amado), on the other hand, distracted me. From the moment he enters, the whole play becomes less dream-like and more cartoonish. At first I thought he could have been channeling Toshiro Mifune in one of Kurosawa’s early movies, but then it became closer to a Mexican stereotype. His accent didn’t help the cause, as it was heightened to make him seem authentic. Pietro Gonzalez (Viejo) was the actor in the opening of the show, and he worried me. He was dull and almost sounded like he was reading from the script. But by the climax of the show, he was the perfect counter-part to Fiske’s Henry. Consuela’s character, while entertaining, never grabbed me. Marieta Carrero’s performance wasn’t commanding enough to make her stand out in scenes that were made for her to do so.

The play itself is not an easy play to do. Sam Shepard is known for his anger, for his bursts, for the violent examination of the twisted normal American life he sees, inside the country and sometimes outside. His adaptation from Nobel Prize Laureate Octavio Paz’ short story “The Blue Bouquet” lacks that explosiveness. It’s tamed. And because of that it never accomplishes the feeling of dreamlike madness that it wants. And I mention Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune before, well, the whole play feels more like a Japanese ghost story than anything. The magical realism does not work as well as he hoped for, but it did in this production to an extent. At least as much as the script allows.

And that’s the testament to the director’s work. Marion and her team managed to make so much of it work, that what doesn’t, does not detract from the production being enjoyable. The potential is there, and with each performance they will find their rhythm. If the actors can all get on the same level, there’s a chance the show can elevate the text further. The director has put all the pieces on the right place, the players just need to get to their place. There’s time.

My Rating:

3-5-stars3

The White Horse Theater Company presentation of Sam Shepard’s “Eyes for Consuela” is being performed at Gene Frankel Theatre. I’ll recommend you watch it; after all you may have a different opinion than me. The show will be running till February 21st, that’s a long time to get all the pieces to work together.

Twisted Talk: Are you familiar with Sam Shepard’s work? Have you seen “Eyes for Consuela?” Discuss below!

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