Dan Rigazzi had a vision for Pedro Calderoen de la Barca's 1635 Life's A Dream, and if this vision was greater than his ability to achieve it, at least he had the guts to reach for the stars.
Life's A Dream is probably de la Barca's most enduring play, its mystical, dreamlike action nearly impossible for a director to resist - or to stage convincingly. And this production proved no exception. Rigazzi depended far too much on dreamlike imagery to propel the action, and the nightmarish mix of styles he incorporated never meshed into one cohesive or compelling whole. The meaning and wonder of de la Barca's text (in a less than stellar translation by Adrian Mitchell and John Barton) were never supported by any consistencies in direction, acting, or production design. Instances that should have been horrifying were instead cues for laughter; moments that should have ignited with fiery dramatic passion fizzled into farcical posturing and over-the-top declamation. (Whether the evening was played for laughs intentionally was unclear.) The actors assumed all the proper poses and facial expressions, but none of them fully inhabited their characters in a way that brought life or even clarity to the proceedings. And the normally dependable Christian Douglas Cargill (along with costumer Leslie Bernstein) provided a design scheme that was a riot of clashing periods, colors, and textures that looked like a bad dream experienced after gorging at an ethnic street fare.
When one reaches for the stars, the ambition is always to be admired. Unfortunately in this instance, even the dust of the stars eluded the grasp, and this Life's A Dream was a tedious, all-too-real experience that inspired instead a yearning for narcotics.
(Featuring Lisa Danser, Gina Harmon, Peter Lettre, Janet Mylott, Will O'Hare, Ricky Pettigrew, Frank Anthony Polito, Michael Strzepek, Richard Tomkins, Glenn White)
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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita