Romantic Comedy Valentino Valentina from Macha Theatre
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The last date listed for Valentino Valentina was Sunday October 17, 2010 / 7:00pm.
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What if William Shakespeare stepped out of a time machine and into the modern day? What would he… More
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Featured review from David Valle
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"Valentino Valentina" is now being presented at the Macha theater in West Hollywood on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM until October 17, 2010.
If you are looking for a little cute entertainment that does not require you to think at all, then perhaps you can find something to enjoy in this play. There are some humorous moments, and comical characters in this play that make it a potentially light and fun play to watch if you can overlook the many flaws of the production. If you are one who likes to be stimulated or provoked into thought while at the theater, this play unravels with poor writing, directing, and uneven acting throughout the evening.
Though the play is listed as a new romantic comedy by Carlo Allen, it is neither new nor romantic. It is a rather poor attempt to translate one of Shakespeare's classic comedies of "Twelfth Night" into a palatable modern day translation for the masses of today to understand. Of all Shakespeare's plays, "Twelfth Night" is one of the more common plays done for today's audience to begin with.
The main plot as written by the bard is not that difficult to follow for today's audience. There are no major twists or turns other than the main gimmick of a woman posing as a man to survive in a man's world. A common device Shakespeare used several times in the plots of his plays. In this respect, the play has been done perfectly adequate in it's original text often to modern audiences who have enjoyed it as it was originally written by Shakespeare. What has made it work with such a simple gimmick for four centuries, is Shakespeare's beautiful use of language that accompanies a great combination of comical farce and wit. Along with some wonderfully drawn comic characters in the subplot, such as Feste, Malvolio, Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Maria.
The witty debate between Olivia and her clown Feste over the nature of Olivia's mourning for her brother is among one of the classic comic encounters in Shakespeare. Yet Allen's script along with the lack luster performance and energy of Faustino ( Micah Beals ), the clown in this updated play, looses all the humor and fun of such a juicy scene. The Deadly combination of the two, along with the inability of director Odalys Nanin to understand the dynamics of the scene or play, leave such a classic scene feeling almost empty and pointless. To rewrite such a classic play, demands that you have a strong new take or reason to do so.
In this case, it is not certain why the need was felt to write a modern day play that follows the "Twelfth Night" plot so closely while loosing the poetry and humor of the language was necessasary. Especially since this version does not offer any new or exciting take on this classic Shakespeare tale at all.
There were some fun performances mixed into this effort that perhaps salvage the evening for most. Those being Neto DePaula Pimenta as Ernesto the overly macho, over the top suitor to Olivia. Leo Weltman as Gordo, one of the more truly consistent to his "Twelfth Night" counterpart of Sir Toby Belch, and wonderfully played as a truly lovable fun loving drunk uncle to Olivia. Weltman captured the spirit and humor of the role to a fine broad comic precision.
Also Michael Onofri as Valentino, the presumed lost brother to Valentina, and Eusebio Hernandez as Antonio, Valentino's savior and friend, both had very believable warmth and charm to carry off the more subtle aspects of the play.
The advertising for the play reports to deal with modern day issues such as immigration and same sex love. If the play was rewritten with the idea of bringing modern day issues to light through the kaleidoscope of the classic comedy of Shakespeare's play, then it would be a good reason to rewrite the play. In this potential focus on modern day issues in this rewrite of "Twelfth Night", the goal was simply unrealized. Other than the play opening with a car crash of illegal immigrants crossing the border, which showed promise that this version would take us some place new and exciting, the issue was never dealt with again. There was never any other element in the play that ever dealt with the complexities of illegal immigration on today's society.
As for the advertised issue of dealing with same sex love, we are betrayed here also. The only thing dealing with same sex love in this version of the play is that two of the characters adopted from the original are played as being gay without ever really dealing with the complexities of same sex love. Those two characters are Rodrigue ( Spike Meyer ) who is Malvolio in the original, and Antonio. It seems to have been an arbitrary choice to turn both of these characters gay, and make a match out of them by the end of the play, in order to promote Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" to the local West Hollywood community. The play, including Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", deals with gender confusion by the mere fact that the main character of Viola, who is Valentina (Iris Gilad) is a woman who is posing as a man. She is not gay. Therefore, on the account of the play dealing with same sex love also, we are left as an audience that has been misled in the promoting of the play.
For a good example of what can be done in a modern day rewrite of Shakespeare, you need look no further then a play like "West Side Story". In this example, "Romeo & Juliet" is rewritten into a modern day musical substituting the complexity of immigrant Puerto Ricans trying to fit into New York society through the adoption of gang violence, over the original nuclear struggle between two rival families. In such a new setting, the issues of prejudice, hatred, and youth violence are truly fully explored.
As for this production of "Valentino Valentina", there is no new exploration of any new relevant issues of our time. The writing of this play is a shallow mindless journey into a redundant absurdity. There is nothing thought provoking about this piece, other than the thought provoking question of why it was written to be done to begin with?
The directing of the play by Odalys Nanin was off kilter if you start with the question of casting. There did not seem to be a through line in the casting of the play that looked to be consistent. Based on the names of the characters, it seems that most all the characters were supposed to be Latin. Yet, the casting was not only blind to this fact, but it was pointed out further by characters such as Valentina, who started out with bad accents in some scenes, and void of accents in others. The choice should have been made to either deal with having consistently good accents, or forgoing accents all together. If the director ever made this choice, it was not apparent in some of the actors.
The staging by Nanin was also bizarre. There was no real consistency of locations and entrances and exits of those locations. Actors would enter and exit locations that had no logical basis for which to follow. This even included some entrances preceded by sound cues of knocks and doorbells at sometimes, and then proceeded by physical offstage knocks at others. There was no consistency at all.
This inconsistency and unbalance was also among the cast. While some actors were very high energy, fast paced, and a lot of fun to watch, other actors were extremely low key, slow paced monotony to watch. If this play were done at a very fast and farcical pace that wouldn't have allowed us time to ponder all the flaws, it might have been a much better show to watch.
Unfortunately, with the slow dragging pace of some of the actors on the stage, there was nothing left to do but mull over how ridiculous this production really was.
This all leads to the question of who chose to do this play, and why?
Perhaps the people involved with this production would be better served to research and do their homework into the material roots of any writers they choose to try and update in the future.
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I love the theatre space and all the performers seemed to be having a good time - there were a couple stronger performances which I appreciated. The script was very, very weak and I didn't care for many of the other performances. I cannot say...continued
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We had a wonderful theatrical experience. Everyone in the cast was superb, especially Iris Gilad, who played the part of Valentino/Valentina.
Fast paced beautifully directed and very funny. I highly recommend this excellent production at the...continued
Quotes & Highlights
“A funny and entertaining piece that still delivers a strong social commentary, quite appropriate for our time.” —The Examiner
Written by Carlo Allen
Produced and directed by Odalys Nanin, award-winning director, producer & writer
Ms. Nanin is the recipient of the Maverick Award from the LA Women Theater Festival, Pat Parker Arts Award from Christopher Street West, she was chosen as one of the most influential people in 2007 by OUT Magazine.
She also received a _Curve Magazine _award for best play 2005. _The Advocate _magazine choose two of her plays Garbo’s Cuban Lover and The Nun and the Countess as one of ten best plays in 2001 and 2004. She has received Three Critics pick by Backstage West for her productions of Garbo’s Cuban Lover, The Nun and The Countess and _ Blood Wedding_. Ms. Nanin is the recipient of three Garland Awards for her direction, performance and production of La Chunga.