By Patrick Christiano
The world premiere of Begonya Plaza’s play Teresa’s Ecstasy, a three character set in Barcelona, features the playwright herself as Carlotta, a Spanish Catholic writer seeking a divorce from her estranged artist husband Andres. The earnest production directed by Will Pomerantz that opened at the Cherry Lane Theater in the West Village suffers from too much talk and too little action.
The conflict or purpose for one hinges on a plot contrivance that has Carlotta return to Spain, where her husband is living and working, to coincidently research a magazine article on St Teresa of Avila and serve her husband Andres, played by Shawn Elliott, with divorce papers. The third character played by Linda Larkin is Becky, Carlotta’s publisher, who just happens to be traveling with her, right?
The 16th Century Saint Teresa of Avila, a nun known for her ecstatic and captivating erotic visions, said “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” Naturally her life becomes the basis for topics about art, politics and the divine, which the couple discuss and debate in this solemn tale about two people who have grow apart. And Carlotta is about to receive some ecstatic news of her own.
The press release states “Teresa’s Ecstasy is a sexually charged look at politics, religion and ultimately love.” The play instead is slight and preachy soap opera with pretentions of grander replete with name dropping and psycho-babble talk about the inner child, but nothing really happens. Still the evening’s biggest problem is Begonya herself as Carlotta, because she displays no inner life whatsoever. Everything she says feels false giving Mr. Elliott little to play off. However, he does come off much better by wisely underplaying his scenes in a nice naturalistic style, but whenever her attempts to add passion he too looks like he is over acting. As a result the scenes between them when they talk about things that happened years ago sound like these disagreements are coming up for the first time. The third character Becky gives a shallow performance in yet another style as Carlotta’s friend, and rival to Andres.
The playwright throws around plenty of smart opinions about politics and religion, but her observations do not flow believably into the building of truthful characters.
The limited engagement through April 1 features original music by the Catalan composer Albert Carbonell.
Teresa’s Ecstasy opened at The Cherry Lane Theater on March 12, 2012 at 38 Commerce Street, just West of Bedford Street in the West Village. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are $60 at Ovation Tix 212-352-3101 or online at www.cherrylanetheater.org
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