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Fine acting almost saves Mayor of Zalamea from weak plot

THE MAYOR OF ZALAMEA

By Pedro Calderon de la Barca.

MIT Dramashop.

Kresge Little Theatre

Nov. 7, 8 & 9 at 8 pm.

author

By NIC KELMAN

DDRAMASHOP'S LATEST play leaves much to be desired. Written

by 17th-century Spanish playwright Pedro Calderon de la Barca, The Mayor of Zalamea is simple-minded in its plot, and, through its characterization, in the message it tries to convey.

With the possible exception of Pedro Crespo (Franz Elizondo-Schmelkes '94) and Don Lope (Paulo Pereira '93), the characters are two-dimensional. They don't arouse any real sympathy or interest.

The play's message is banal, as well: Barca takes three hours to point out that one does not have to be aristocratic to have honor -- and that being aristocratic does not guarantee one's honor. While this might have been a more revolutionary theme at the time of the play's creation, were audiences at that time enthralled by three hours of variations on that theme either?

Moreover, the story is nothing more than a backdrop provided for these dull characters and their tiring, blatant message.

The tale revolves around the town of Zalamea and deals with the conflicts that arise when several companies of soldiers arrive to be billeted for a few days. Beyond this, little can be said to happen in the way of a plot.

In addition to these failings, the translation does the play no justice. It swings between verse and prose with no apparent justification. It manages, furthermore,

to make 17th-century Spanish soldiers appear as if they were modern-day London skinheads.

The play's direction was disappointing as well, with Michael Oullette's effort as flat as the characters. It lacked any personal touch and failed to do anything but make predictable usage of the few possibilities that were presented by the play itself.

It is unfortunate that the direction was so poor, since the representation of the town through the play's set was superb. Oullette chose to create Zalamea by doing nothing more than placing scale models of the town in the backstage, leaving the set devoid of any other items. This simple device proved very effective. The lighting job was very professional, as well.

I was particularly disappointed that Dramashop chose this play because of some of the fine acting talent exhibited on stage. The Sergeant (Nelson Sharfman '91) gave a wonderfully flexible performance, with a razor-sharp and captivating sense for comic timing. Elizondo-Schmelkes also showed some promise as what could be considered the lead character, Crespo.

His performance created a very interesting characterization and conveyed all the wisdom and good sense that Crespo was intended to have. On the other hand, it also had an irritating smugness to it, and Elizondo-Schmelkes tended to be rather static in his use of his body and arms. With some more practice, this performance could be very good indeed.

Other worthwhile creations included Ines (Marivi Acuna '94), who was enthralling during her time on stage, despite the caricature nature of the role, and also Don Mendo (Philip Tracadas '95), who made a perfect idiotic, narcissistic aristocrat.

All in all, The Mayor of Zalamea is really only worth seeing for its performances. Most of these are nothing unusual, but a handful of them are entertain

ing enough to just about carry the play through its many other problems.