Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cervantino Festival 2014: An unforgettable Coriolanus

If you didn't see Shakespeare's play at the Principal this year, look for what Mexico's National Theater Company offers at a future Festival. I am not automatically a Shakespeare fan, but by preparing online I was ready to take on the bard  for this one with its shifting alliances. The program handout helped too, spelling out the themes of the play rather than summarizing the plot.

What I saw and heard was spectacular (pun intended). Under David Olguin's direction, the staging, costumes, music, set, lighting and acting all came together to make for an unforgettable evening in the theater.
Whether Coriolanus existed or not doesn't matter at all or that this is one of Shakespeare's least-known plays. T.S.Eliot praised it for its structure and I could see why.

Within minutes I was caught up in the power struggles of ancient Rome in a way I had never been taking three years of Latin. The low, threatening music played while the audience was settling in and then the costuming, a brilliant blend of ancient and modern, thrust me into the play immediately. I loved hearing the characters speak to each other in modern Spanish. I didn't have to follow every word to appreciate the interplay among the characters or Shakespeare's tribute to Roman rhetoric. Besides, the play has a fascinating female character in Coriolanus's mother.

I'll skip to the next-to-last scene to say that the actual stabbing of Coriolanus caught me by surprise, just as it did its victim. Olguin is a consummate director who spurred the characters to keep acting even as they listened. My only disappointment: the staging at the end. When I came home, I went to the original script online to find out whether the fault lay in the playwright or the director. Shakespeare won, hands down.

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