Live performances of The Dog in the Manger at GALA Hispanic Theatre have ended, but the company has announced that the production will be available to enjoy streaming. Tickets may be purchased online at $20 through December 1, $25 starting December 2. Ticket buyers will receive a unique link and will be able to watch any time from December 2, 2020, through January 3, 2021. Viewers will have the option to turn on English subtitles.
Review originally published November 19, 2020
A wily tale of love wags ‘Dog in the Manger’ at GALA Hispanic Theatre
It’s time again for that trickster, Lope de Vega, the wily, prolific playwright who knows what will put asses on seats and will give it to you every time—only with a wry twist or two in the plot, to keep you guessing.
With its current production of de Vega’s Dog in the Manger (El Perro del Hortelano), Gala Hispanic Theatre becomes one of the first theater companies in the area to attempt to revive live performance—under a strict protocol, and on a stage enclosed by plexiglass so that actors can work without masks. Meanwhile, the audience—socially-distanced from each other as well as from the stage—watches the action. Could this be a small step to get theater back in our system? In a city desperate to reconnect, but equally keen on surviving the pandemic, we can only hope GALA’s formula is a success.
Director José Zayas has made a virtue of the necessities surrounding this production, and has assembled a top-notch cast that gives de Vega his due. All the themes are there—an exotic foreign locale (Spanish-occupied Naples), a willful noblewoman, loyal servants, foppish suitors, intrigue, love, jealousy—even a murder plot tossed in for good measure. The brisk pace and turn-on-a-dime cues of lights and sound leave you on the edge of your seat.
Soraya Padrao leads the cast as Diana, the Countess of Belfor, who discovers an epidemic of love has broken out among her servants. Her secretary, Teodoro, has been wooing her own maidservant Marcela on the sly; and as if that’s not enough, she’s caught the bug too. Padrao gives us an impetuous, willful, entitled noblewoman, but what’s with her getting the hots for an inferior?
Any questions about Diana’s taste in men are dismissed once Teodoro himself is allowed to speak. Ariel Texidó’s turn here as the young lover Teodoro is exquisite; all he has to do is begin to speak and hearts melt. His words of love, penned by that master of love himself de Vega, leave you rooting for the Countess even as you think his heart really should belong to Marcela (the charming Catherine Nunes, who clearly deserves first dibs).
Of course, it’s forbidden for a countess to love a commoner; but once you’ve seen what passes for suitors at her house—the hilariously vain Oscar Ceville as Ricardo, and the pathetically wimpy Delbis Cardona as Fabio—you can understand her completely. Options in Naples being limited to begin with, and with an eloquent servant, the jealousy erupts instantly when the big boys realize they’ve been trumped. Lighting designer Alberto Segarra collaborates brilliantly with sound designer David Crandall, shuffling back and forth between period and contemporary touches—and when Fabio and Ricardo resolve to plot Teodoro’s murder, the shift to a disco downtown is as quick as it is skillful.
This being a comedy, of course the hit man is precisely the wrong man for the job—Tristan, Teodoro’s servant, given a hilarious turn by Carlos Castillo. Castillo, the go-between for both Teodoro and for the audience (his asides are priceless), is the classic brains-of-the-operation character, the only one with a head on his shoulders. Clever enough, too, not to mention it to the idiots he’s dealing with…
Clifton Chadick’s set is compact, semi-classical but colorful, and the theme of floral motifs is echoed beautifully in Jeannette Christensen’s finely executed costumes, which combine the sense of the Baroque with the contemporary.
The Dog in the Manger is dizzying in its plot twists and turns—you will be forgiven for losing track of who’s in love with whom and why—and the ending is surprising in a manner that made de Vega’s work so insanely popular in his day. It’s well worth the watch now, and I certainly hope it receives a revival once these challenging times are behind us.
Running Time: One hour 55 minutes, without intermission; performed in Spanish with English surtitles.
Performances of The Dog in the Manger run through November 22, 2020, at GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC. Reservations are necessary, as only 25 patrons will be seated. For tickets call 202-234-7174, or visit galatheatre.org.
(DISCLOSURE: DC Theater Arts is not currently assigning writers to review live performances, although we cover live performances in other ways. Andrew Walker White’s review of The Dog in a Manger is based on his viewing a video generously provided by GALA Hispanic Theatre. For more information about our COVID response, see About DC Theater Arts.)