Saturday, October 03, 2009

Review: Main Street Theater The House of the Spirits

house of spirits

Chelsea Ryan McCurdy and Eva De La Cruz
Photo by RickOrnel Productions

Caridad Svich’s The House of the Spirits is a noble adaptation of award-winning Chilean author Isabel Allende’s classic novel. Svich’s play doesn’t completely capture the essence of Allende’s enchanting use of magical realism, but she creates a compelling theatrical experience, such that, by the second act, I was hardly missing Allende’s delicate prose. Svich also distills Allende’s massive epic into a workable story.

The House of the Spirits chronicles the ups and downs of the Trueba family in an un-named Latin American Country spanning 1920 through the 1970s. Unlike the book, Svich uses Alba, the youngest member of the Trueba tribe, as the sole narrator, lending a cohesive dramatic thread that works well to bring us in and through the multiple frames of reference found in Allende’s dense writing.

The cast—all strong—is headed up by Sean Patrick Judge, who lends a quiet dignity to Esteban Trueba, a difficult and complex man. Judge gives Esteban a brutal edge and, as he ages, a somber tenderness. Laura Michelle Salas imbues the young Alba with a slight aura of distance, serving to separate her from the brutality of her torture and imprisonment, and sustaining a cool detachment of the storyteller. When she finally enters the action of the play, Salas adds warmth and resolve. Eva De La Cruz’s Clara matures from a magical child to tolerant wife with believability. Luisa Amaral-Smith plays several roles, but is most powerful in her portrayal of Ferula, Esteban’s long-suffering sister.

Rebecca Greene Udden directs with a soft hand, letting the story unfold in its own timing. Nothing feels forced or rushed; it’s a graceful production. Jodi Bobrovsky conjures a lacy all white world, lending a sense of understated elegance. David Gipson’s lighting design add just enough otherworldliness for us to feel thoroughly transported.

Reprinted from Houston ArtsWeek.