The first thing that stands out when you mention Gala Theatre's new production of Lope de Vega's classic comedy, "El Perro del Hortelano", (translated as, 'The Dog in the Manger', but better described as the 'gardener's' dog, the one who doesn't eat or allow others to partake), performing live now through Nov. 22, is the unprecedented act of bravery it takes to produce a live theatre piece at this dangerous juncture. Not easy, yet GALA has done it with care and caution under safe conditions and, remarkably, with a delightfully fresh comedy, a welcome antidote to our gloomy, lugubrious times.
The gazebo-like scenario encased in transparent acrylic plastic transforms into an attractive and relatively unnoticed staging vehicle. Everything occurs quite naturally for a 16th century comedy of errors from one of the Spanish speaking world's most iconic authors.
Of course with only 50 people in the audience (25% of the theatre) and everyone wearing masks you are constantly aware of the altered circumstances and the ever present health hazard. Nevertheless, bravo to the little theatre that could!
Lope de Vega was a contemporary of Shakespeare and his place in the literature of Spain runs parallel to the Master of Stratford on the Avon, although with his theatrical comedies in particular, he is most often compared to the Frenchman Moliere. 'El Perro...' is a farce of envy, double entendre's and hidden identities. It concerns a well bred noblewoman named Diana, played expertly by the visiting Soraya Padrao, who is attracted to her lowly Secretary, Teodoro, while at the same time being courted by two well off noblemen. Teodoro is stricken with love for another of Countess Diana's servants and the jealous noblewoman plots to separate them all the time misleading her lowly suitor and the two nobleman, there are twists and turns and ultimately no one ends up satisfied with the results.
Director Jose Zayas has done a remarkable job with a compact, modernized conception of the play as has the young Spanish playwright/actor, Paco Gomez, who was commissioned by GALA to create this version simplifying the language and structure of Lope de Vega's story. The GALA ensemble is, as usual, remarkable in its depiction of the various (combined) roles. Just watching Luz Nicolas and Carlos Castillo play their various roles is enough to make the evening a worthwhile theatrical event.
If you can get a seat and are satisfied you will be safe and healthy after (they actually take temperatures at the door) it is a magical evening of theatre, in particular for those of us who love the shows and have suffered without for some time now. Be safe, take care and if you're a theatre lover and adventurous enough... go see the play at GALA! All the information is on their website; www.galatheatre.org.