Theatre II in the Gunston Arts Center fills with laugher four times a week during the run of Teatro de la Luna’s US premiere of the comedy "Volvió una Noche (She Returned One Night)" by Argentinean Eduardo Rovner, a romp of a piece in which the mother of the groom returns from the grave to see if her son’s intended is good enough for him.
Rovner’s comedy has built something of an international reputation since its debut in his home city of Buenos Aires 17 years ago. With successful productions in non-Spanish speaking countries as varied as the United States, Israel and even Finland, the show succeeds because its humor isn’t confined to the language, it is in the situations in which the characters find themselves and in their reactions.
On stage or on screen, audiences can often find the comedy in confusion when they can understand what the characters don’t seem to comprehend. It is a classic concept for comedy, and it works here for audience members who speak Spanish and almost equally well for those who don’t.
Teatro de la Luna performs the work in its native Spanish, but with an English translation projected on a screen above the action. Those who are not fluent in Spanish can sit in the rear two rows of the six rows of seats and enjoy a clear view of both the performance and the subtitles.
That translation is particularly well done, both in the vocabulary it uses and in the way the projection matches the pace of the performance. Rarely is a laugh sparked among the Spanish speaking audience in the front without the text of the gag being available at the right moment for the English speaking audience watching the screen.
Nucky Walder, co-founder of Teatro de la Luna, plays the late mother of the groom, as a busybody in the Lucille Ball tradition of never seeing the downside of anything she’s up to. She’s funny and physical, giving plenty of visible clues to her actions and reactions that make the show easy to follow even for those who don’t understand the language she’s speaking.
Peter Pereyra, a long time veteran of this theater as well as with the English-speaking Washington Shakespeare Company, is energetic and crystal clear as her son, who, in the concept of the play, is the only one who can see or hear Walder. He can’t resist reacting to her statements, answering her questions, and thus, confusing all the other people around him.
Rovner ratchets up the intensity of the comedy by adding another layer of unreal but logically consistent confusion: an Archangel who drops in on the newly dead occupants of the graveyard and follows Walder to her son’s apartment. Toward the end things get even more outrageous as Walder’s spirit friends show up for the wedding.
Director Mario Marcel and the cast of eight performers keep things clear even in the midst of confusion.
<i>Brad Hathaway reviews theater in Virginia, Washington and Maryland as well as Broadway, and edits Potomac Stages, a website covering theater in the region (www.PotomacStages.com). He can be reached at <a href=mailto://Brad@PotomacStages.com> Brad@PotomacStages.com</a></i>.