‘La Perdida’ at Catholic University

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La Perdida, a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, occurring in Mexico during the celebration of The Day of the Dead, opened last evening at the Callan Theater at Catholic University. The production is a fantastic update of an ancient story and the gorgeous original music, exceptional performances by talented cast members and highly authentic production values promise a spectacular evening of entertainment.

Seth Rosenke, Kira Burri and Bobby Gallagher. Photo courtesy of The Catholic University.
Seth Rosenke, Kira Burri and Bobby Gallagher. Photo by Chris Maddaloni.

La Perdida, directed by Elena Velasco, tells the story of happily married couple, Don Leopoldo (Bobby Gallagher) and Dona Gabriella (Dillon Greenburg), who are expecting their first child. In a fit of jealousy, Leopoldo believes his wife must have had an affair with their best friend, Don Arturo (JP Sisneros), who has been staying with the couple for the past nine months. After the child is born on El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), Leopoldo orders his manservant, Gonzalo, (Seth Rosenke) to drown the child in the river. Unbeknownst to the family, Gonzalo is unable to kill the innocent baby and instead flees and raises the baby girl, Perdida, as his own. When Perdida (Ines Dominguez del Corral) is grown and falls in love with an upper class man, Raphael (Philip Da Costa) with a familiar family history, romantic and tragic complications ensue.

Bobby Gallagher as Don Leopoldo was restrained and lovably timid at the beginning. Once he believed his wife had been unfaithful to him, he transformed personalities with a powerful and terrifying jealous rage. Gallagher did a fantastic job with the character’s transformation and the contrast was extraordinary. Dillon Greenburg as Gabriella, his wife, was sweet, gentle and gracefully refined. She possessed an honest and pure vulnerability, adding layers and depth to what could have been a flat, stereotypical ingenue role in less capable hands.

As Don Arturo, JP Sisneros had an extremely commanding stage presence with an exceptionally strong baritone voice. His performance was deeply moving and his contrast of characters from Act I to Act II was astounding. Ines Dominguez del Corral and Philip Da Costa as young lovers Perdida and Raphael were an admirable pair. The grown-up couple is not introduced until Act II and Da Costa took the time to build up a wonderfully over-the-top caricature of a spoiled, vain, ladies man. His interaction with the audience was wonderful and he instinctively knew which comedic bits he could “mug” for all they were worth. Ines Dominguez del Corral as Perdida was perfectly fitting to the character description and completely lovely, lithe and graceful. Though she occasionally was slightly below the pitch in her upper vocal register on certain songs, she gave a moving and beautiful performance as the title character.

The standout cast members of the production had to be Seth Rosenke as manservant Gonzalo and Maddy Belknap as Carlota, his wife. Rosenke truly stole the show with some of his comedic moments. His physical comedy bits and comedic timing were exceptional and displayed a fantastic natural chemistry with Belknap. The pair was perfectly cast and Belknap portrayed a strong-willed but still warm and caring lady’s maid with supernatural abilities.

Dillon Greenberg. Photo courtesy of The Catholic University.
Dillon Greenberg. Photo by  Chris Maddaloni.

La Perdida features original music by Deborah Wicks La Puma and book and lyrics by Kathleen Cahill. The music was gorgeous and lush, almost operatic in scope but featuring traditional Spanish influences and syncopated rhythms. The opening number introducing the main characters and overall theme of the show was very well executed and highlighted the phenomenal voices of the cast. Traditional masks provided a great effect, and the onstage band dressed in Day of the Dead skeleton costumes was a particularly nice touch.

The unique element of the production was the inclusion of dance among the main action by three omniscient characters on stage. The show was narrated by Time (portrayed by Ciaran Farley) who had an incredible charisma and natural ease on stage while drawing the audience into the story and spooking them along the way. The dancing, brilliantly choreographed by Velasco as well, was artfully executed by dancers Angeleaza Anderson and Kira Burri as the Spirit of Life and the the Spirit of Death. The ladies were amazingly fluid and effortless in their movements and their intricate, winding dance moves with the actors in certain scenes were astounding. Robb Hunter also deserves special mention for incredibly realistic and fantastically choreographed sword fight and knife fight sequences.

The intimate staging lent another unique aspect to the production. The beautiful set, designed by Tom Donahue, featured two authentically decorated alters on either end of the stage, with the stage floor painted to resemble sand in a Mexican desert. The Callan Theater layout allowed the actors to go into and sometimes behind the audience and interact. Watching Anderson or Burri execute a complicated dance move while perched on a handrail only inches from an audience member was absolutely thrilling. The production costumes by Kendra Rai were gorgeous and authentically detailed.

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Running Time: Two hours, with one 10-minute intermission.

La Perdida plays though this Sunday at Catholic University’s Callan Theatre – 3801 Harewood Road, NE, in Washington, DC. All performances are now sold out.