Thursday, October 29, 2009


It’s a little late to write anything about Barksdale’s “Boleros for the Disenchanted,” but I feel I have at least a little something interesting to add even though the show closed many days ago. The afternoon after I saw “Boleros” last weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Patricia Herrera, a new professor at University of Richmond who is currently teaching a class called “Latinos on Stage.” She had brought her class to see an early performance of the show and it was great to get to talk to someone so knowledgeable and articulate so soon after seeing the show.

Dr. Herrera expressed a sense of surprise and delight that a Richmond company had launched a project aimed specifically at the Hispanic audience. She had many interesting things to say about the show itself. Like me, she loved playwright Jose Rivera’s poetic style and admired Bruce Miller’s staging of the play. She found the story compelling and felt the dance at intermission established a special kind of intimacy between audience members.

We talked some about how refreshing it was to see a story of a couple’s life together unfold without bells or whistles or gimmicks; it was just a very realistic story told very well. I mentioned a fear I felt during the show that it was going to take a turn into magic realism, not an uncommon feature among Latin American literature. I thought the realism itself was pretty magical, if not always the most pretty or easy to accept.

One aspect of the show that I missed totally that Dr. Herrera enlightened me on: she was distracted by the non-uniformity of the accents. Some of the accents she experienced as Caribbean sounding, others more French. I think this points to the specific challenges of staging a play like this. I didn’t notice a dialect coach in the program and am wondering if one was used. Calling Amanda Durst!

In terms of performances, both Dr. Herrera and I were enchanted by the young Eusebio, Luis Vega. He’s a good-looking hunk who expertly projected good-natured, smart and sensitive. Carmen Zilles was extrememly charming as the young Flora, though a couple of times I thought her line readings of Rivera’s sometimes florid language were a little flat. What truly blew me away though was her brief interlude of song in the second act (as the nurse, Eve). I haven’t heard such a sweet, pure voice in a long time; the fact that she only sang such a short snippet was a first-rate tease. I would travel a good distance to see/hear her in a musical if she plays in one close by (Mr. Miller, can you bring her back maybe for a staging of a Hispanic musical next season? Please?)

So, sorry for the late assessment, but all-in-all, a great production in my opinion and an exceptional first step in what I hope will be many more of these kinds of audience-broadening experiments.


Thespis' Little Helper said...

One of my favorite things I've seen.

Patricia Duran, in particular, blew me away (she played Flora's mother in Act I and Flora in Act II).

I find it more strange when I see a show with dialects foreign to me and they are entirely uniform. Pull 6 random people off the streets of Richmond. How many different accents will you find? Possibly 6.

Even in my own family (all of whom speak with a Southern dialect) there are vast differences within the Southern dialect. Even when we were kids, my three younger brothers and I had major differences (even before mine was forced to something close to Standard American).

I'm feeling very commenty today, it would seem.

YES! Carmen in a musical! Bring it! Ooh. Hello, Again by Michael John LaChiusa would be great for her.

Bruce Miller said...

Stick with your own opinions regarding the accents, Dave. They need no "enlightenment."

I could understand Dr. Herrera saying that she detected a Cuban influence here or a Mexican influence there, but French?? Everyone in the cast is a Spanish speaker from a Latino family. They weren't just putting on an accent.

The cast was very concerned about sounding uniformly Puerto Rican (as opposed to Mexican and Cuban) in Act I. Only two of the cast members (Luis and Michelle) were Puerto Rican by birth. The cast would have loved it if we could have employed a dialect coach, as would I. Unfortunately, we couldn't afford one for this production, since we spent considerable sums on other aspects of casting.

I was thrilled when some Spanish speaking audience members made a point to notice that Carmen Zilles spoke with a Puerto Rican accent in Act I and a Spanish accent in Act II--something Carmen worked on very hard. My untrained ear could not detect the difference.

I'm glad you liked the show. I was very proud of it. And thanks for writing about it. I appreciate reading your opinions.