Will the Real Federico Garcia Lorca Please Stand Up?

by Natalie Mann

Guest Writer

pLAywriting in the city

Walk down First Street in Boyle Heights and enter the “Lorca Room,” the poet’s fictional purgatory housed in Josefina Lopez’s theater, Casa 0101. Nilo Cruz’s Lorca in a Green Dress begins with the annunciation of the wordsmith’s death in the hands of fascist Spain and follows the newly deceased author through psychological labyrinths of encountering multiple selves. Each asserting that s/he is Federico García Lorca. Jennifer Sage Holmes’ interpretation transcends a potentially confusing text into a surrealist, nonlinear performance that parallels Dalí’s figurative dreamscapes alluded to in the play. Under Holmes’ direction, the multiplicities present within Cruz’s work are handled with deliberation. To the audience, Rajesh Gupie’s embodied voice of Lorca in a White Suit as Dalí declares his artistic quest for a “paranoiac reality,” a “transcription of reveries.” He yearns to create “[i]mages on top of images, layers in the details as if seen through a mirage.”The mirage is the search for a nonexistent singular truth buried behind multiple versions of reality, dreams and memory. There is no separate lens of the mind’s eye, but refractions contorting to time, place, emotion and condition. The first act of the play begins with two versions of Lorca’s assassination; decentering the power of an authoritative voice. Concrete significations elude as multiple Lorcas erupt.

In this circular, yet oblique, interpretation of Lorca as author and text, the cast and crew work together to breath life into this play. And, this viewer as author is reminded of what Jacques Derrida meant in “Ellipses” when he wrote: Death is at dawn, because everything has begun with repetition. Out of each interpretation of Lorca as memory, a new translation arises. Lorca’s identity and voice gives rise to Cruz’s creative analysis. After wafting through the lacuna that exists between production and audience, it is each viewer’s personal, mental discourse that gives revived spirit to the play.  Although death catalyzes Lorca in a Green Dress, the martyr is buried and the existential humanist endures.

Holmes masters the interplay of Lorcas with grace. The actors seamlessly move in and out of un/parallel realities that are at the core of Cruz’s play. Through Holmes’ precise vision, the performance washes over the audience like an undulating wave and repetitions with differences emerge. The minimalist set provides a blank canvas for the audience to un/consciously absorb the flow of intertextual, fragmented verbal and visual images. Within the play, Lorca’s poetic words intertwine with Cruz’s dialogue and gradations of green, beginning with the celestial lights at the start of the play, stream to keep the memory of the poet alive. Costume designer Monica French’s choice to outfit Lorca in a Green Dress, played by Alex Polcyn, in celadon – versus a vibrant green – illustrates this point. The greyish version of this secondary color not only signifies death, but also refers to the archaic name for languid swains, sighs and longings. Without hope, dreams die. Without love, there is nothing.

Gerardo Morales’s guitar improvisations and Alejandra Flores’ flamenco dancing conjure the image of roaming gypsies; yet ground the ethereal, unearthly production. However, there are times during the performance’s choruses that movement interrupts the audibility of the play’s stream of consciousness flow, muffling vocalizations. Thus, severing the audience from this simulated political and psychological urgency engendered by the historical backdrop of war. It is through these important segments that the viewer remembers that labels, such as poor, rich, liberal, socialist, communist, and homosexual, prevent people from seeing one another as human.  After all, no one can escape death.

Sometimes, but not often, the viewer’s unconscious mind allows the multicultural cast to merge into a single entity – most playing plural roles – slipping in and out of dialogue to create the multifarious dimensions of Lorca. However, Adrian Gonzalez, Lorca as Blood, congeals these various aspects of self in a corporeal, heartfelt way. Gonzalez epitomizes Lorca as human. He bleeds. True, everyone is a dreamer, a thinker, an artist. However Gonzalez nails the denial, anger and acceptance that characterize the cycle of mourning an existence displaced.

To be truthful, it is easy to get contemplatively lost in the poetic beauty of the play; including allusions, philosophical discourse, and transcendence through time, space and memory. But in a sense, Holmes’ adaptation of Cruz’s piece serves as a contemporary meditation where a truth is found through self-examination, acceptance, compassion and universal love. Verde is Spanish for Om.

Lorca in a Green Dress by Nilo Cruz is presented by Casa 0101 Theater and The Center for Collaboration with the Arts at Whittier College. The theater is newly located at 2102 E. First Street in Boyle Heights, CA 90033.  The play runs until August 26th: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. For more information visit http://www.casa0101.org/.

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Natalie Mislang Mann is a native Angelena, who someone once described as having a Hilbert space for culture.  Natalie’s intuitive ability to interpret interdisciplinary, cross-cultural developments led to a Master of Arts in Humanities from San Francisco State University. Before pursuing her degree, she lived in Florence, Italy, where she studied art history, literature and the Italian language. Natalie’s passion for the arts led to an internship at Patrick Painter Gallery and a volunteer position at the Getty Center. Ultimately, deciding that she could make the most societal difference as an educator. When Natalie is not writing or teaching, she is prowling for skeins of yarn, practicing yoga or investigating restaurants.  Currently, she is crafting fiction through UCLA Extension Writer’s Program.