I went into Miracle Theatre's Duende de Lorca knowing little about Federico García Lorca and wondering what a bilingual theater production would be like. The play, directed by Matthew B. Zrebski, follows Lorca (played with beautiful nuance by Rory Merritt Stitt) from the opening of his first successful play in Spain to New York, and then to Cuba. By the end of the show, I wanted to go read more of Lorca's works, and I was satisfied to have easily understood an entire show wherein characters slipped in and out between English and Spanish (though probably more than 60% English).
Although Duende succeeded in those aspects, there were several facets of the show which I found problematic, a couple of which seem to stem from insufficient budget. Other than a beautiful mural backdrop painted by Tomás Rivero, the set consisted merely of two unpainted wooden boxes on wheels (couldn't slap on a coat of black paint?), employed in many ways but always seeming like rehearsal placeholders. As a bench, the box was not long enough to seat two people. As something to stand on, the wheels worried me when one actor seemed in danger of falling off. There are no props used in the show, which would be fine except for the two times that actors mime holding a letter or reading from a piece of paper. Even a low budget is no excuse for that.
In a cast of four, three of the actors played multiple roles, which, though not an uncommon practice, can tend to make it harder to tell who is who, as it did here for me. I found it interesting that the one woman in the cast (Dañel Malán) was the playwright herself, playing, as listed in the program, "various women and a cat." Why a cat? Well, I'm not sure. The cat (costumed in a mask), named Flor, later appeared as a woman by the same name—it was never made clear why. Similarly puzzling was the unnecessary use of a mask for one other (human) minor female character. In a live show, masks should serve more of a purpose if they must be used at all.
These technical setbacks aside, the most compelling parts of the show were the more experimental moments of song and poetry set outside the narrative, such as when Lorca and his friend/rival Salvador Dalí (Ajai Tripathi) spiral toward each other in a pool of red light, reciting one of his poems.
With a doubled budget and a larger cast, and a keener directorial eye, this production could have done more. As is, it seems to be overreaching its limitations.
Duende de Lorca continues tonight and tomorrow at 8 pm, and tomorrow at 2 pm. After tomorrow's matinee, the Miracle is teaming with Powell's Books to present a "bilingual book bazaar," with books in English and Spanish as well as representatives from the Independent Publishing Resource Center, who will "offer demonstrations and exhibits related to zine-making and bookbinding." For more info and tickets, see the Miracle's website.