Most theatre belongs safely to the realm of “prose,” but every now and then, a show seeks to jump the gap, to make the leap in narrative and style — while still very much being a play — to the world of poetry. Pointless Theatre’s new adaptation of Lorca’s Don Cristóbal is such a production.
Puppets, broken fourth walls, multiple pairs of comedically large bazoombas, a barrage of live sound effects — all this and more shall be thrown at you in the one-act, bilingual play going on at the Dance Loft on 14 until September 8. Lorca’s Punch-and-Judy-style satire isn’t so much deconstructed as it is splattered about. There are some good ideas on the stage, but they float around, free-verse, and resist structure. Roll with it.
The Director (Thais Menendez) and The Poet (Paz Lopez) square off with their competing visions of the tale of Don Cristóbal, a club-wielding dirty old man who first serves as a doctor so he can murder a patient for their money … so he can essentially buy a sexy young bride … so he can bang her. But then he’s too old to satisfy her, so she sleeps around. So he beats her. And her mother. And possibly her children-of-many-fathers? Things kinda spin out from there — literally, in the form of Mel Bieler’s Swiss army knife of a set — as even the reality of the play-within-a-play drifts away into the mist.
As directed by Rachel Menyuk and Eric Swartz, this Don Cristóbal is less interested in getting laughs from slide-whistle erection jokes than it is in examining the roles that gender, history and language play in violence, judgment and vilification. The Director, previously so insistent that the Don is irredeemable, finds herself in a world where everyone thinks she herself is Cristóbal, which does, to be fair, bring out that side of her. It’s like a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Josef K.’s trial.
The puppets from Francisco Benavides are impressive, the costumes by Frank Labovitz are spot-on, and don’t snooze on Niomi Collard’s lighting design. But Pointless’s ace-in-the-hole remains its actors. Lopez and Menendez spar, in both Spanish and English and across media, in farcical trials that combine dance, sex, and the ever-present threat of violence. Among the ensemble, Scott Whalen and Vanessa Chapoy in particular give richly rewarding performances, but no one up there is phoning it in.
No matter how familiar you are with Lorca, puppetry, or modern reinventions, you will definitely see something new.
It doesn’t all make sense, and it definitely isn’t for everyone. Just like poetry.