Sunday, February 20, 2011

Promethean Theatre: A Bearded Lover (5 reviews)

The Promethean Theatre opened its world premiere production of A Bearded Lover, a new play by Juan C. Sanchez, on February 18, 2011.
A dark and heartwarming play about three eccentric sisters who are preparing for a long journey into the sea -- Sibling rivalry ratchets up; love and loyalty are tested; even the bond of sisterhood is challenged, pushed to the limit, and changed forever.
Margaret M. Ledford directed a cast that featured Ursula Cataan, Gladys Ramirez, and Deborah L. Sherman.

John Thomason reviewed for The Miami New Times:
In the second act of A Bearded Lover, Lucia, the youngest sister in this three-character opus, delivers one of the play's most telling lines: "I'm not lifeless anymore, like the two of you."

For much of the protracted duration of this production, set in prerevolutionary Cuba, it's an insult that might apply to the play itself. This world premiere from Miami playwright Juan C. Sanchez is a lumbering, unpolished play, brimming with ideas but sorely in need of an editor and, yes, some life.
Deborah L. Sherman plays her part as the melodramatic, self-described "poetess" Dolores with gusto. Ursula Cataan drips icy, repressed hurt with every sentence as middle sister Ines. And Gladys Ramirez, as the uncouth Lucia, deserves credit for what little pulse A Bearded Lover sustains in its first act.
It takes a story about a young, unknown rebel named Fidel Castro for the rest of the play to catch up with Ramirez's energy. Lucia offers a salacious narrative describing how Castro recently ravaged her virginal loins. From here on out, A Bearded Lover displays a pulse, a libido, and a soul...
Some good ideas occasionally peek out from this overwritten epic, mainly from the ongoing theme of the sisters' escape from their miserable realities via the solace of myths, books, fairy tales, and fantasies...
Dolores reveals this repressed lust in the play's meatiest and most moving soliloquy, the closest Sanchez comes to pure poetry. It proves that, if it didn't spend so much time to find its dramatic footing, this could have been a hefty piece of theater.
Mary Damiano reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
While the plot of A Bearded Lover is steeped in tragedy, it’s a very funny play.  SanchezMargaret M. Ledford and the cast deftly navigate these emotional swings, creating believable familial bonds.
knows women, and he knows that catty remarks and vicious barbs are often followed by intense loyalty and hugs.  Director
Sherman, Cataan and Ramirez work beautifully together. Sherman and Cataan have played sisters on stage before, and their performances benefit from chemistry and shorthand. Newcomer Ramirez is a breath of fresh air, adorably goofy one moment, a fierce interrogator the next.
A Bearded Lover needs some refining to go to the next level. There are noticeable scissor marks from over zealous editing, references that need more explanation, moments that need the gaps filled in to up the emotional ante.  

Still, A Bearded Lover is a quirky story that requires much suspension of disbelief, but it is ultimately riveting.
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtiZine:
...Sanchez can be a very funny writer and despite the blood and guts there's a lot of humor in this piece. Gladys Ramirez, a good physical actor with a fine comic touch, excels here as Lucia. Ursula Cataan, in the least sympathetic role of Ines, does what she can as an annoyingly whiny manipulator and Deborah L. Sherman as the heavily scarred Dolores easily conveys her sense of craziness.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
The play that had its world premiere Friday at The Promethean Theatre is simultaneously satisfying and schizophrenic: 75 percent broad hilarious comedy, 25 percent harrowing family drama. Each facet thoroughly succeeds on its own, yet each undercuts the other enough that the piece doesn’t land as solidly as it might.
But even with these and other flaws, there’s little doubt that Sanchez’s theatrical imagination, the propulsive direction of Margaret M. Ledford, the vibrant performances of Deborah L. Sherman, Ursula Cataan and Gladys Ramirez all coalesce into a terribly funny and ultimately affecting evening that is well-worth seeing.
Sanchez has created a compelling swirl of family dynamics, but credit Ledford and the actresses for creating even more multi-dimensional creatures. Some scenes are immensely funny, due to what Ledford and the actresses do with the script.
Sherman, co-founder of Promethean, adds another unique portrait to her resume. Dolores, the eldest sister, is a would-be poet ecstatically over-dramatizing every emotion to hilarious effect.
Cataan... nails Sanchez’s creation of Ines, the embittered middle sister who punctures her sisters’ rosy outlook with cold, clear-eyed assessments.
Ledford again proves her skill at eliciting strong performances and creating stage pictures without you noticing it. If Sanchez’s script runs a shade too long, Ledford never lets up the pace except for variety.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...the languishing women of Three Sisters and the tragic trio of King Lear seem positively dull compared to Dolores, Ines and Lucia.
... As girls, the three were badly burned in a suspicious fire that killed their parents. And tart-tongued Ines is determined that this night – July 26, 1953 – will be their last.

Sounds somber, right? But The Bearded Lover doesn’t play out that way, not at all. Nor, despite its setting and time period, does the play come off as a Cuban memory piece. Sanchez’s language is completely contemporary, so much so that it’s sometimes hard to believe women of that era would choose the words these sisters do.
Though Sherman occasionally flirts with melodramatic delivery, all three actors achieve strong performances and work together beautifully. Set designer Dan Gelbmann, costume/makeup designer Ellis Tillman, lighting designer Robert Coward and sound designer Matt Corey help anchor Sanchez’s story in time and place. And though Dolores, Ines and Lucia don’t seem headed toward the enduring impact of drama’s other sister-trios, spending time with them at Promethean is surprisingly pleasurable.
The Promethean Theatre Company presents A Bearded Lover at the Black Box Theater at Nova Southeastern University through March 6, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. A good effort by the acting was not believable.