EL SUENO DE SOR JUANA
nytheatre.com review by Ivanna Cullinan
What might well be the sexiest curtain in FringeNYC hangs on the stage
at El Sueno de Sor Juana. It is sparkly and theatrical, promising
something either utterly fantastic or possibly very cheesy to follow. It
is actually a bit of a tease. Although this piece is certainly low on
the cheese-factor, what follows was not always coherent enough as a
whole to invite me in. However, I was struck by the strong performers
and ideas within this piece.
August 15, 2003
Mujeres en Ritual have used the epic poem by Sor Juana, "El Sueno" as a framework for exploration. The title means "dream." Now, in that a dream can contain a series of unrelated images that somehow do flow together, this piece does partially behave like a dream. Some of the sequences are interesting but they exist separately and do not evoke anything particular in themselves. The symbols or images are not fleshed out enough to contain the sequences as a complete piece. An interesting initial image is never revisited or referred to, leading me to wonder if it was necessary at all to start with that specific image. The program states that the piece transports the dream to a contemporary border town. This border town setting is referred to only twice and could be exploited much more strongly to get the vision across.
That said, the four women who comprise the company are strong dancers and sometimes I would find a moment that startled me. The verse is largely performed by Mara Maciel as Sor Juana. She is completely comfortable in addressing us, there is something almost thirties-style cabaret in her delivery. As the piece moves from segment to segment, other dancers take on the text delivery and sometimes the dancer’s face will seem to morph into a mask through which the text arrives. There is occasional and wonderful live guitar accompaniment by Magdalena Loza.
As the Spanish in this piece is both Baroque and Mexican, it may not be understandable to some Spanish speakers. As a person who does not speak Spanish, I was initially happy that an English translation is available at the theater. However the poem is complex, by no means accessible through a cursory read, and the theater is too dark to read the poem during the performance. It does not seem to be incorporated for its literal meaning but for where it takes the piece and so that does not stand in its way. The lack of wholeness to the vision does.