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The House of the Spirits

[The following review is scheduled to appear in Variety the week of October 3rd.]

Isabel Allende's epic novel, punctuated by explosive events and characters, bursts forth in the circular Space Theatre of the Denver Center Theatre Company (DCTC), while leaving some open-ended questions. The elusive answers, in the form of projected text derived from the journal of the narrator, Alba (Meghan Wolf), climb the curtains, vibrate across the floor, and get sucked into time-warped trap doors and exits.

Allison Pistorius as Rosa the Beautiful
Allison Pistorius
as Rosa the Beautiful
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Fans of magical realism, for whom the letting go of everyday expectations is a rite of passage to anomalistic phenomena, will find the emotional arc of the play true to the novel, despite the necessary cuts from its 400 plus pages.

Helmer José Zayas' imaginative, yet simple staging—leveraging the DCTC's refined craftsmanship and technical legerdemain—keeps the heart of the matter front and center, with the inexplicable never more than a few beats or a couple of steps away. Kudos for the judicious use of body mikes to overcome the normal audio challenges of working in the round.

John Hutton as Esteban Trueba and Meghan Wolf as Alba
John Hutton as Esteban Trueba
and Meghan Wolf as Alba
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Wolf's haunting eyes and stealthy presence in every scene remind us of the story's multiple levels, as her Alba processes the multigenerational details and ultimately delivers the salvos that bring her grandfather, Esteban, to see his mistakes.

Hutton's self-consumed Esteban is riveting throughout—in his excitement over Rosa the Beautiful (Allison Pistorius), in his vile bitterness toward his enemies, and, finally, in his beaten down, introspective assessment and redemption, which provides the catharsis to this gripping drama.

(Left to right) Franca Sofia Barchiesi as Clara and Jeanine Serralles as Ferula
(L to R) Franca Sofia Barchiesi as Clara
and Jeanine Serralles as Ferula
Photo: Terry Shapiro
The inspired choice of Franca Sofia Barchiesi as Clara pays metaphorical dividends as the clairvoyant eight-year old masters her gift and grows into a strong matriarch before our eyes.

The ensemble delivers a delightful series of colorful depictions, including: Drew Cortese's frightening Esteban Garcia; Dion Mucciacito's heroic troubadour, Pedro Tercero; and Pistorius' translucent Rosa (those cat eyes and green hair!). Strong performances as well from Jeanne Paulsen, Lawrence Hecht, Dena Martinez, Jeanine Serralles, and Lanna Joffrey.

Drew Cortese as Esteban Garcia and Meghan Wolf as Alba
Drew Cortese
as Esteban Garcia
and Meghan Wolf as Alba
Photo: Terry Shapiro
Caridad Svich's script is true to Allende's political discourse as well, delivering a series relevant commentaries on the haves and have nots, amplified by the action on the family ranch and other key events taken from Allende's own life, including her uncle's (Salvador Allende) assassination by the CIA-backed Augusto Pinochet and the consequent disappearances and torture campaigns.

The Denver Center Theatre Company's production of The House of the Spirits runs through October 23rd. 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org.

Bob Bows

 

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