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Green Dress of Many Colors

Renegade Theatre Experiment delves into symbolic world of famous Spanish poet

By Marianne Messina

IN RENEGADE THEATRE Experiment's latest, Lorca in a Green Dress, the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca arrives in a sketchy afterworld as "the dead poet," Lorca in Blood (Andrés Sinohui). His bloodstained white shirt (costume design, Courtney Flores) reminds him that it's 1936 and he's just been tortured and shot to death by Spain's ascendant right-wing party.

In this nebulous "Lorca Room," overlooked by a Dali-esque melting clock, Lorca meets embodied aspects of himself who must help him accept his death. They recap the history of the Spanish Civil War for him by breaking into song in a surreal brushstroke of humor that stops short of camp.

Lorca in a Green Dress is not at all as dark as it sounds—more like thoughtful, moody and beautiful. It juggles emotional tones like intensity, playfulness, wonder and absurdity with a constantly shifting equilibrium. Written by Nilo Cruz, the play is also poetic, a pastiche of Lorcan phrases with the ring of Lorcan themes and moods.

The character known as Lorca in a Green Dress is introduced as "dark love, the poet's secrets and desire." Kevin Kelly's alluring, light-handed Green Dress Lorca shimmers between intimate friend and devilish seducer. We're never sure what he's up to or what he wants from the poet. Lorca with Bicycle Pants (Antonio Viramontes) is Lorca's dreamer child self: "I place your dreams in vellum paper like butterflies," the boy says. Like butterflies, the sometime symbols of past souls, this play beckons, in its flighty dance, toward something hidden or mysterious—which is to say, don't expect George Lucas plotting.

With its dramatic flamenco underpinnings, the play is as much a sensual experience as it is a story or a poetic tribute. Lorca's female aspects wear passionate red dresses accented by a twinkling black scarf in the case of Lorca as a Woman (Jacqui Herrera as the muse, "all the women in his plays"), or by a shawl—the Flamenco Dancer (Diana Gutierrez as the duende, "dark sound, death-seeking spirit"). Gutierrez moves with grace, and both she and the rest of the cast often punctuate their dialogue with vigorous flamenco stomping or hand clapping, not to mention her haunting song.

Under Ed Trujillo's direction, lighting designer Jacqueline Steager offsets the vagueness of place with well-defined atmospheric color. With the back wall as lighting surface, the whole ambience onstage can go from disorienting mauve to Lorcan "green desire" while maintaining an eerie ethereal glow. On top of it all, RTE's Derek Batoyon has designed a soundtrack that envelops and extends the play rather than interrupting it. Broody, elegant, fiery sounds of flamenco guitar, the Gypsy Kings and obscure Paco Ibanez enhance the play's poetic world.

Sinohui (looking remarkably like Lorca's most famous image) brings his Lorca to the foot of the balcony audience, enlarging his limbo by a second stage area. In delivery, Sinohui sometimes seems overaware (perhaps overly respectful) that he's playing a poet, and the others that they're handling poetic language, an effect that hopefully will wear away as the production settles and ripens. This production is beautifully, arrestingly prismatic, not linear. The more open you can keep mind and senses, the more colors, glints and shadows you'll take in.

Lorca in a Green Dress, a Renegade Theatre Experiment production, plays Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through July 30 at the Historic Hoover Theater, 1635 Park Ave., San Jose. Tickets are $13-$20. (www.renegadetheatre.com)

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From the July 27-August 2, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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