Stage Version of Rachel´s Song
- Submitted by: manso
- Editorial Articles
- 06 / 10 / 2011
By Miguel G. Valdés Pérez. No doubt, two titles out of the vast literary work of Cuban researcher and ethnographer Miguel Barnet have called people’s attention the most. These are the testimonial works ‘Biografía de un cimarrón’ (Biography of a Runaway Slave) and ´Canción de Rachel’ (Rachel’s Song).
The latter sets the story in Cuba in the first half of the 20th century. It is a composite chronicle of the experience of a number of women who worked in Havana’s dance-halls. There is also a film version, which has been a success for its high artistic values, as well as the excellent acting, evidence of which are the several awards filmmaker Enrique Pineda Barnet won with it.
‘Canción de Rachel’ by Miguel Barnet not only reflects the political and social climate of the period, but as the author himself said, it reflects a ‘belle époque’ and the frustration of its main actors.
But, above all, it portrays the Alambra theater and its former main characters and figures.
The above mentioned features of the literary work, reflected and enriched by Pineda Barnet’s film version, can now be also appreciated in a stage production -certainly a challenge from all points of view.
Theater director Tony Díaz and his group Mefisto Teatro have taken up this great challenge.
The theater group already has a vast work that includes such successful stage productions as ‘Escándalo en la Trapa’, written by Cuban playwright José Antonio Brene (1927-1990) - and more recently, ‘Cabaret’. Both stage productions fully demonstrate how this theatre group faces up to and overcomes great challenges, with shrewdness and great talent.
Taking the controversial Enriqueta Faber, who led an eventful and sinful life, to the stage was truly a very brave decision Diaz made. Equally successful was the group’s staging of ‘Cabaret’ by Joe Masteroff –a musical premiered in Broadway in 1966- and the stage version of Christopher Isherwood’s novel ‘Goodbye to Berlin’.
With his stage version of ‘Rachel’s Song’, Tony Díaz, has once again opted for a conceptual genre that is the subject of controversy in Cuban theater today: zarzuela. He spared no effort to ensure success. As with ‘Cabaret’ whose original version starred US star actress Liza Minelli, staging a classic entailed a real challenge.
In Díaz’ ‘Rachel’s Song’, the actors’ previous training is evident in both, signing and dancing –two indispensable expressions of the zarzuela. The cast of actors shows cohesion. The play has been on for three weekends in a row at the “Tito Junco” Theatre hall of the Cultural Center Bertolt Bretch.
Maylú Hernández, in the role of young Rachel, again displays her great talent. The way she presents herself and her command of acting and stage is in keeping with her character’s requirements.
Heddy Villegas –in the role of old Rachel, who refuses to give up life and her memories- constitutes an excellent contrast element and provides balance to the drama.
Rayssel Cruz, in the role of young Barnet; Eric Morales, in the role of Eusebio; Fidel Rodríguez, playing the part of Muchacho de La Calle (street urchin) and Yisel Zayas, in the role of Margot ‘Tragalotodo’ all achieve harmonious performances.
It is worth noting also the role of Anita Peligro, performed by Diana Rosa Hernández –an actress with a great talent for comedy, which she exploits fully on the stage to the audience’s delight. The performance of Frank Ledesma in the role of Adolfito is equally memorable. This young actor displays his mastery of acting techniques. The scene of Adolfito’s death –very well-achieved from the point of view of both, the stage direction and the use of full frontal nudity- lies credibly in Ledesma’s charisma and natural manner.
The dance duet made up by Ledesma and Joan Manuel Morell –a dancer with the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional (National Folk Dance Company) – is also full of aesthetic lyricism.
Other elements, also brilliantly featured in Enrique Pineda’s film and which contribute genuine Cuban and ´criollo´ ingredients, are recreated with great talent and very few material resources in this stage production. That is the case with the ‘morcillas’ (blood sausage) and the archetype characters the negrito and the gallego, performed by Alejandro Milián and Beny Seijo, as well as the choreography ‘La Isla de Las Cotorras’.
Ernesto Lecuona’s music is also most appreciated, specially the excellent rendition of his piece ‘Te vas, juventud’, which brings to mind the unforgettable María de los Ángeles Santana.
‘Rachel’s Song’ by the theatre group Mefisto Teatro augurs well in the preference of the audience –the other main character of any stage production, which despite being seated in front of the stage do not take a passive attitude toward this interactive and communicative process that responds to an excellently-made ‘mise en scène.’
No doubt, with this stage production Tony Díaz and his theater group have demonstrated once again that while staging a zarzuela requires some material resources, the ultimate success of the project lies in intellect and creative talent.
Cubarte Translation Staff