• Date:
    October 1, 2007
    Review by:
    Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus.

    A Review by Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus.

    Billed as a "delightful comedy of the unexpected," "Spain," deftly directed by Jeremy Dobrish, takes us on a fantastic journey of the imagination, as far-fetched as any fantasy can get. The one who needs the fantasy is Barbara, an unwilling divorcee, and she conjures up a 16th century conquistador in full body armor to help her deal with the shock of her husband John's departure for "that slut with the boob job."

    From the opening scene, in which both reveal their passions -- Barbara for Spain and all its past glories, and the Conquistador, for himself, his sword, his helmet, and his conquests -- we wonder just how they connect. Playwright Jim Knable takes his time making the connections, but it's well worth the wait.

    Sitting on the couch in her living room, dressed in Gap flannels, t-shirt and hoodie, Barbara, played by the lovely Annabella Sciorra of "Sopranos" fame, is anything but exotic. Trying to figure out where to put his sword, "El Tigre," as the Conquistador calls himself, sits next to her, having no idea how he got there. But they talk, and probe each other's deepest desires, and as Barbara's tongue loosens up, so does the suppressed rage of this spurned wife who needs to get past her anger and love again.

    Believing she has limitless powers (this is her dream, remember), Barbara starts trying on the characteristics of her 16th century savior, raping and pillaging with the best of them, destroying anything in her path! Gleefully she grabs El Tigre's sword, and with sheer abandon, thrusts it into her couch, ripping it to shreds! Conveniently, her ex-husband appears and he too is impaled. Sirens screech, ex-hubby lies there bleeding, and El Tigre passes out drunk on the floor.

    While all of this adventure and swashbuckling is taking place over the ordinary couch in the ordinary living room, a gilded mirror intermittently lights up, revealing the specter of a Mayan Ancient, resplendent in full-feathered regalia, who spouts words of wisdom which give much-needed insight into these disparate characters' actions.

    At her most poignant moment, the all-knowing Mayan, wisely played by Lisa Kron, steps through the looking glass at the end of the carnage to explain, "You are acting out a Freudian fantasy based on a Jungian nightmare, served to you by an Andalusian Mayan Soul Prophet."

    So that's it. We are witnessing Gestalt dream therapy at its most elemental level. If we are indeed all the characters of our dreams, then, as this modern day fairy-tale suggests, we can act out our fantasies, run through our spouses with a fabulously bloody sword stolen from a Spanish conquistador, pillage our domesticity, run amok with the nearest conqueror, and tell all this to our best friend, Diversion, while under the watchful eyes of the omniscient Ancients. And we don't go to jail.

    Diversion, personified in this REM-defying dream by the stunning Tony-award nominee, Veanne Cox, is alternately stoic and flamboyant. First appearing as rational friend from work, Cox dons other roles -- fan-clutching flamenco dancer to Sangria-swilling horsewoman -- and with each transition, attempts to help her friend out of her turmoil as the lines between reality and fantasy blur.

    "Spain" is a phantasmagorical romp through a mine-field of desires, dreams, and devastation. Like all fairy tales, it promises that "once upon a time," we will be swept off our feet, carried into the clouds to some far-off land (like majestic Spain), and live with our knights in shining armor, happily ever after. For all lovers who have ever felt like re-designing their lives after each setback, who believe that dreams keep us vibrant and young, who still believe happy endings are part of life�s mysteries, this play is for you.

    Barbara Mehlman & Geri Manus