BWW Review: THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY Cuts Deeply Into the Superficial Life We Lead in Los Angeles
Playwright Henry Ong admits that when he stumbled upon Tirso de Molina's "La celosa de si misma" (Jealous of Herself) during the Playwrights' Arena (PA) for the Golden Tongues series to introduce audiences to the treasures of the Golden Age of Spanish theater between 1590 to 1681, a PA-partnership with UCLA William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, he discovered an ingenious tale of deceit and deception with fascinating characters and relentless wit.
The tale of self-image, identity, and the idea of physical perfection as hoisted upon us in the media immediately presented Ong with the opportunity to set his modern adaptation THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY in modern-age Los Angeles, a place where so many of us become dissatisfied with what nature has given us and how the media says we should look causes people to continually crave and seek to attain idealized versions of our physical selves in order to gain love.
After two successful readings during the play's development, its world premiere is now taking place at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks through August 26 on Sunday nights at 7pm. At the core of this madcap, farcical comedy is the universal truth that beauty is but skin-deep and it is the heart and soul of a person's character which matters the most.
Directed by Denise Blasor who has been involved with the development of THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY with playwright Ong, the cast features Natalie Amenula, Cynthia Dane, Juan Haro, Eddie Mui, Carla Valina, and Terry Woodberry, with onstage background music on keyboards and cello delightfully added in by composer/sound designer Longo Chu with background scenes added in by video designer Derrick McDaniel. Running for 90 minutes without an intermission, and presented in the over-the-top acting style of Spanish soap operas, the story follows the dashing Melchor (Terry Woodberry) after he arrives in Los Angeles from Cedar Rapids to court his online dating connection.
But while touring The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels with his friend Ventura (Eddie Mui), a chance meeting with Magdalena (Natalie Amenula), a mysterious veiled lady who calls herself "The Countess of L.A," causes him to fall madly in love with her and she with him. What Melchor does not realize is that his online mystery date is none other than Magdalena herself, concealing her good looks to challenge his moral compass to stay true to her.
Soon her friends Quinones (Cynthia Dane) and Angela (Carla Valina) add their subterfuge to the lovers' plans, as does her brother Jeronimo (Juan Haro), each adding in more disguises and hilarity after Melchor meets Magdalena sans veil and unimpressed. The situation soon ignites Magdalena's jealousy - of herself! A farcical amalgam of disguise, deception, and a bag full of money ensues along the way to all things working out for the best in the end when the truth of what is being presented is revealed.
Every so often, Monsanto is blamed for most of society's problems while the accompanist manages to keep asking for donations after each solo song. Adding in to the humor are clever song parodies, such as "Angela" to the tune of "Maria" which generated lots of laughs. Locations all over Los Angeles are visited, included gay bars in West Hollywood, the Central Market downtown, and other landmarks sure to be recognized by those who live here.
And of course, there are many comments to keep us laughing at ourselves, the superficial life so many lead here, and how you really never know who that stranger really is sitting at a fountain or next to you on bus or train. But isn't that part of the charm - our ability to be whoever we want from moment to moment? Henry Ong certainly speaks to that anonymity we can all enjoy in this city full of strangers.
THE BLADE OF JEALOUSY, written by Henry Ong, directed by Denise Blasor, with original music and sound design by Longo Chu, is produced by The Whitefire Theatre and Artists Against Oppression every Sunday at 7pm through August 26, 2018, at the Whitefire Theatre, located at 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. All tickets are $25 and may be purchased at the door or in advance to guarantee your seats at
Photo Credit: Ivelisse Photography