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BWW Review: Solid Acting and First-Class Production Values Elevate a Protracted AY, CARMELA!


AY, CARMELA!/written by José Sanchis Sinisterra/adapted by Nilo Cruz & Catalina Botello/music composed by Gustavo Dudamel/directed by Alberto Arvelo/Hudson Mainstage Theatre/thru December 13, 2015

The Stella Adler Theatre's west coast premiere of AY, CARMELA! boasts the great fortune to have the stellar contributions of renowned architect Frank Gehry (in his first foray into the Los Angeles theatre scene as set designer) and Los Angeles Philharmonic's Music & Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel as its score composer. Production values complementing these two (including Chris Moscatiello's sound and Jeremy Pivnick's lighting) have never been better at the Hudson Mainstage.

Not to be upstaged by the sublime Dudamel scoring (crystal-clear recordings of plaintive guitar strummings) or the minimalist, clean-lined Gehry set (including a stunning recreation of a Goya sketch on the proscenium arch); Eloísa Maturén & Alejandro Furth expertly inhabit their roles as vaudeville performers Carmela and Paulino in their 1938 command, well, actually, command-ed performance for the conquering Nationalist troops and their prisoners (due to be executed the following morning).

Not really a spoiler, as the reveal's within the first scene; AY, CARMELA! features the ghost of Carmela visiting Paulino in the empty Goya theater they last performed, interspersed with flashbacks of that final performance.

Furth's stage presence and acting artistry dominate this show-within-a-show making his Paulino an intriguing, very real, three-dimensional person with human flaws stuck in a very unfortunate, but empathetic situation. Bravo to Mr. Furth for holding on to the audience's attention during playwright José Sanchis Sinisterra's lengthy expositions for as long as he does.

Maturén's wonderful in her alternating coyness and feistiness, although her one-word answers in her initial scene with Furth frustrate. (Not either's fault.) Obviously a classically trained dancer, Maturén nails all her flamingo routines (choreographed by Siudy Garrido), as well as, all her other movements with precision.

Basically a two-hander, Tomás Decurgez efficiently serves as the Greek chorus of the Nationalists troops in this Alberto Arvelo-directed piece.

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