- Antona García
The 2012 Siglo de Oro Drama Festival, hosted in El Paso, Texas, at the Chamizal National Memorial, featured only three plays. Although the festival ran for the customary span of five nights, from March 7 through March 11, two of the productions (Antona García and Tiempo de Carnaval) were performed twice. Also, the 2012 festival featured just two groups. The first, a student group from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, performed a translation of Antona García, complete with two adapted and translated entremeses. The second group, a professional theater company based in Murcia, Spain, known as Cambalache Teatro, staged Tiempo de Carnaval, a compilation of three short plays, as well as Los milagros del desprecio. Taken as a whole, this year’s festival provided the spectators with plays in English and Spanish, translations, adaptations, more ‘faithful’ productions, and entremeses alongside comedias. Although the number of plays and companies was significantly reduced in comparison with previous Siglo de Oro festivals held at Chamizal, the audience’s experience was still richly varied in language, genre, and production, much to the delight of all in attendance.
As pointed out by Jason Yancey, translator (along with James Bell) of this year’s opening play of the Chamizal Siglo de Oro Drama Festival, Tirso de Molina’s Antona García (staged by the Grand Valley State University theater program) is a striking exception to the rule: it has a bit of everything, enough to upset any tried and true statements about what the comedia does or does not do. Its eponymous heroine, for example, readily gives birth (twice) in the midst of fighting off soldiers, negotiating her problematic romance with the Count, and spearheading resistance within a heated political dispute over Queen Isabel’s and Queen Juana’s claims to the Castilian throne. Antona emerges victorious, in an early modern version of the “how does she do it?” cliché of recent Hollywood lore, reducing her political nemesis to a cowering heap while marriage and two babies wait patiently in the wings. Yancey’s excellent translation brings this eccentric and comic play to a wider audience while preserving some of the original Spanish text. The pleasing blend of linguistic registers connected with Grand Valley State University’s approach to the play’s staging, which integrated [End Page 215] traditional seventeenth-century dress with modern theatrical flair, namely, a lit screen that changed colors to signal shifts in scene, time of day, and mood. The mix allowed for two fine moments of theater: first, when Antona brandishes a burning stick at the end of Act 2, reclaiming her political agency and avenging her husband’s death, and, second, a slow-motion fight sequence during the final battle of Spanish and Portuguese supporters, complete with red screen, dimmed lighting, smoke, and the soundtrack of a heartbeat, creating a pulse that accentuated bodily movement during the fight.
The play, directed by Karen Libman, worked best during its crowd and fight scenes, when strength in numbers and animated fight choreography allowed the actors the highest level of expression and dramatic energy. Despite the generally solid nature of Grand Valley State’s English version of the play, which went through eleven sets of revisions from its original translation during rehearsal (a testament to the transformative nature of moving from page to stage), some of its one-on-one scenes would have benefited from further cutting to cater to its student actors. The initial scene between the Count (Chaz Bratton) and Antona (Genesis Loza) lost its momentum once the two had established their mutual romantic interest and distressingly crossed political loyalties, dragging on until spectators may have felt as desperate for a resolution as the characters themselves. The cast, a compilation of students from the university (some drama majors, some not), displayed varying levels of acting ability. Overall, line delivery lacked intention, with the notable exception of Sarah Tryon’s rendition of María Sarmienta, the play’s villainous antiheroine, who made her every word cry out, daring the audience to detest her. Both Antona and the Count played the serious moments well, but these were few and far between. Antona...