Once Upon A Caterpillar
nytheatre.com review by Amy Lee Pearsall
October 22, 2012
If you enjoy solo-performance, be certain to check out the third annual United Solo Theatre Festival. Running at Theatre Row on 42nd Street through November 18th, this year’s United Solo features 100 short theatrical productions from around the world, the majority of which will only run once. Take a chance, pick a day, and take in some of the rich and varied offerings this delightful festival has to offer.
Metamorphosis is the morning radio show subject of the day in Esmeralda Castellon’s Once Upon a Caterpillar. The 45-minute one-woman show features the performance of three characters that – to our unseen radio show hostess – figuratively symbolize the caterpillar, cocoon, and butterfly stages of human existence.
The three women exemplified here all seem to have ties to an unnamed housing project: There is an eastern-European cleaning lady in mismatched clothes and hair rollers; a woman nestled in a hoodie, deep in mourning for her son; and a surly party-girl decked in glitter, rhinestones, and wings, who seems to be one-third Victoria’s Secret angel and two-thirds the real thing.
The radio show thread for the piece struck me as being a somewhat flimsy device to string these three relatively unrelated monologues together. Having said that, Castellon as directed by Joseph D. Martinez proves herself to be a remarkable character actress. With a firm grasp on accents, physicality, and the occasional improvised response to audience feedback, she deftly segues from tongue-in-cheek humor to intimate moments of tragedy.
On the subject of she-with-wings, I must make mention of the amount of glitter that was in the air when Castellon came out from backstage. I suspect she was using a cosmetic hairspray; unfortunately, the glitter seemed to be everywhere but on her head. While the effect was charming during her piece, it was less so an hour later during another performer’s show at United Solo. Going forward, she might want to reel in the sparkle.
While backstage changing costume, Castellon holds the audience’s attention with a shadow puppet show performed by members of her stage crew to her prerecorded voiceover as the radio show hostess. As a fan of shadow puppetry, I felt the puppets were somewhat static and underutilized. I would love to see Martinez and Castellon do more with this in a future incarnation of the show.
With some additional clarification and workshopping of the narrative through-line, I think Castellon could easily take Once Upon a Caterpillar from chrysalis to full-blown monarch. While this production has wrapped up its short run at United Solo, do keep your eyes peeled for Castellon – her colors on stage are something to behold.