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  • Los milagros del desprecio
  • Jonathan Wade

On Saturday, March 10, 2012, Cambalache Teatro de Murcia, under the direction of Francisco García Vicente, presented a musical adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Los milagros del desprecio. This was not Cambalache’s first musical at the Siglo de Oro Festival or its first dramatic attempt at merging the Spanish Golden Age with 1930s music, dance, and dress. García Vicente is not shy about his high regard for the decade he considers the end of the classical era. In contrast to their well-rehearsed and brilliantly executed performance of Tiempo de carnval the night before, Los milagros del desprecio was somewhat out of step, even if quite entertaining.

Cambalache’s production included a simple skyline-themed set with small variations in color to reflect male (blue) and female (pink) spaces. The night scene at the end of the work suspended both colors in favor of a darker ambience. Although the production had a definite New York City feel to it, the generic skyline gave it a more universal look that could represent any major city. Similar to the set, the costumes were simple and effective. Music from the thirties provided a melodious backdrop to most of the play, including several scene changes.

What time and resources they saved by going with a simple set design, they definitely made up for with an ambitious production. It was evident that not all of the actors had a musical theater background, and even those with more trained voices (e.g., Alberto Sogorb Javer, who played Alonso) struggled at times. Issues of timing, unison, and vocality compromised much of the singing. Some of this will work itself out as the company continues to rehearse and perform (it is a relatively new production), but some of the musical choices need rethinking. Early on in the play, for example, Alonso, Juana (Clara Ruiz [End Page 219] Rufino), and Leonor (María Josefa Capel Luna) sing a confusing number put to the melody of “Miracle of Miracles” from Fiddler on the Roof. This upbeat tune hardly fits with the sharp words of criticism and offense coming from Alonso and Juana. Moments such as these undermined the choice to turn Lope’s comedia into a musical in the first place. Music definitely reinforced Sogorb Jover’s character, though, creating a strong sense of pathos within the audience and a clear sense of identity for the actor. Furthermore, it allowed the group to navigate passages of the play that otherwise might have proven cumbersome to stage. Some kind of basic choreography accompanied most of the songs. In the roundtable discussion that followed the play, several of the actors acknowledged their inexperience and difficulty with dancing, and it showed throughout the performance. Similar to the singing and the dancing, the blocking of the play left something to be desired. Timing, again, was somewhat of an issue. Moreover, much of the movement within the production consisted of pacing back and forth. After a while, this became both predictable and monotonous.

Ricardo Sierra Arqueros (Hernando) put in a very strong performance. Both the actions within the play and the audience’s favorable reception revolved around his character. While a lesser actor might have struggled with such a central role, Sierra Arqueros consistently delivered. Credit is due to García Vicente for identifying the importance of Hernando within the work and casting his best actor in the role. He brought the humor within Lope’s verse to life, adding his own inventiveness to the comedia as well. Some of Arqueros’s best moments came alongside Capel Luna, who played Juana’s servant, Leonor. Her performance was also one of the highlights of the night. She brought energy, enthusiasm, and believability to her role. Although a minor character in the comedia, Don Juan (Alfonso José Enrique Gallego) delighted the audience with his dizzying entrances and befuddled ways. He made the most of a relatively small role.

Los milagros del desprecio ends according to comedia convention, with a happily-ever-after pairing off of the characters. That the audience, too, left happy can be attributed to Cambalache Teatro’s energetic, fun-filled production. As a musical...


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