The Colonel's Wife

By Mario Fratti
Conceived, produced, designed, and directed by Roi Escudero "Bubi"
Environmental Theatre de Camara
Midtown International Theatre Festival/Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex Mainstage
312 West 36th Street (212/279-4200;;
Equity Showcase (closes Aug. 2)
Review by Arlene McKanic

The Colonel's Wife, written by Mario Fratti and conceived, directed, and performed by "Bubi" as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival, recalls, slightly, the feminist magical realism in the works of Isabel Allende. The story concerns the wife of an Argentinean colonel, murdered during Argentina's dirty war. She's immigrated to America and finds work as a nightclub performer (she teaches kids during the day). The evening starts in the club, with a masked singer (Francisco Cantilo) performing a salsa version of "Mack the Knife" while two masked women dance. They're soon joined by a masked couple, who dance a precise and sensuous tango while watched by a spooky masked figure who recalls a character from Carnival. Suddenly the show is interrupted by a cop (Julio Soler), who's come to check out the club's liquor license. This interruption, this unexpected plunge into reality, prompts the angry colonel's wife to whip off the Carnival costume and tell her version of the story of her life.

The play, in both English and Spanish, was livened by tango, bolero, and salsa numbers performed by Bubi and dancers Sarah La Rocca, Ney Melo, Paula Wilson, Carina Moeller, Joaquin G. Canay, Mitra Martin, and Michelle Spires. Now and again Bubi, as the wife, moved into the audience to flirt with the men; she is, among other things, miserably lonely since the death of her husband, and her loneliness leads her to a tragic entanglement with a creep. One of the performers (Alex McCord as The Hostess, who was glowingly pregnant) also served as a Greek chorus to the wife's sometimes not entirely truthful recollections. Accolades should also be given to Sally Jenkyn Jones for the wife's attire -- everyone was in black save the wife, who was in bridal white -- and to Nene Laplacette, who created the wife's opulent jewelry. Bubi designed the set of the upstairs auditorium of the Abingdon Theatre with pale draperies, which served as a screen for James Ewan's "atmospheric projected backdrops" to reveal other aspects of the wife's story. Jonathan Fuchs's usually low-key lighting recalled not only a nightclub but also an unsettling dream, and the atmosphere was enhanced by Cantilo's music and the background sounds, which included bird songs and the grunts and squawks of zoo animals. But Bubi's performance as the angry and betrayed woman was arresting. Her piercing eyes and long curly hair recalled a Latin Medea. The Colonel's Wife is an interesting, intricate work.

(Film by François Bernadi.)

Box Score:

Writing/Music: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2003 Arlene McKanic