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  • Tiempo de Carnaval
  • Ivy Howell

On Friday, March 9, 2012, Murcia’s Cambalache Teatro, under the experienced direction of Francisco García Vicente, delighted the Chamizal audience with their performance of Tiempo de Carnaval. Their production consisted of the comical compilation of three entremeses, including Luis Quiñones de Benavente’s “El abedejillo,” Agustín Moreto’s “El poeta,” and Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s “El entremés de Carnestolendas,” that depict the jovial and playful character of Carnival through practical jokes and metadramatic allusions. The festive nature of Tiempo de Carnaval began even before the curtain was raised, as masked actors and musicians welcomed the arriving public to the performance. The company seamlessly connected the three short works, or “aperitivos,” as their director called them, creating the impression of a single dramatic work while highlighting the merry and playful atmosphere of Carnival.

Cambalache Teatro skillfully linked the three entremeses. The comediantes musicales’ live performances of several brief upbeat songs frame the play. Composed specifically for Tiempo de Carnaval by a music faculty member of Murcia’s Escuela Superior de Artes Escénicos, the songs were presented before the beginning of the production, between each piece, and upon its conclusion. The company also created original dialogue between the poet (Ricardo Sierra Arqueros) and his friend (Jaime Lorente López), two characters from Moreto’s “El poeta,” to situate the dramatic action and serve as a transition between the three entremeses. The production utilized a simple but effective stage design to create the three environments: a spotlight in front of a closed [End Page 217] curtain for the transitional material, a simple banner advertising the presence of a traveling group of comediantes in front of a closed curtain for “El poeta,” and a bright backdrop with a door-like opening serving as a comfortable and noble home for “El abedejillo” and “El entremés de Carnestolendas.” Casting choices aided in creating the sensation of a single play by having certain characters participate in multiple roles in the drama, such as the poeta and his friend. Furthermore, the costume design also contributed to the creation of a unified work, as all characters remained in the same costume throughout the play with the exception of the articles of clothing they put on during their makeshift comedia in “El entremés de Carnestolendas.” The transitional action, uncomplicated set, and consistency of casting and costuming demonstrated the connection between the three entremeses, creating the perfect environment for a production treating the themes of Carnival.

Cambalache’s conception of the production created the sense of a single dramatic work through the order of the entremeses and the progressively more elaborate practical jokes in each one. The first entremés, and first act of the production, “El abedejillo,” commenced with the four female characters announcing their excitement to play a game that depended on an innocent passerby in honor of the festivities. The ladies forcefully removed their unsuspecting victim, named González, from the street, smashed an egg on his head, squirted him with water, and covered his face with flour. After taking the chance to look at their work, they gleefully acknowledged his resemblance to the “convidado de piedra,” metadramatically calling attention to the well-known victim of another drama treating a trickster. Their quarry, magnificently played by Alfonso José Enrique Gallego, increased the comical nature of the scene by his emphatic and melodramatic reactions to his humiliation, most notably while questioning the motives behind their actions: “Queréis hacerme buñuelo?” The second act of Tiempo de Carnaval, Moreto’s metatheatrical “El poeta,” began as the poet, the same actor and character connecting the three pieces, told his friend of his plan to rob the traveling theatrical company. In order to execute his prank, he mesmerized the actors by listing his works that have made it to the stage. Comically, he managed to steal their coin purses while telling them of his self-referential entremés, “Un hombre a quien la bolsa le han quitado.” “El poeta” also broke the fourth wall, asking for audience interaction in the form of a tiple. Tiempo de Carnaval culminates in the last entremés, which includes...


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