Monday, October 12, 2015

"Life is a Dream" ☼ ☼ ☼

In Spanish, Pedro Calderón de la Barca's "La Vida es Sueño" (Life is a Dream) is a three act poem, a morality play written, astonishingly, in verse. First published in 1635, in the years since the story has become known as one of the finest works of Spain's Golden Age.

Resident playwright at the Cutting Ball Theater Andrew Saito has done a new translation and shortened it considerably, turning three acts into one and, of course, abandoning the verse. Director Paige Rogers stages the show as a farce in the Exit's trademark experimental fashion. For the most part it works well.

Prince Segismundo is played by Asher Sinaiko with energy and emotion. He is the standout performer of the show, with other excellent performances by Michael Wayne Turner III's Clarin and Sango Tajima's Rosaura. Sinaiko's father David plays King Basilio, who has cast his son into prison because of a dream his wife had before the child was born.

The show plays a bit long, because there is so much slapstick. The central theme -- that you never know if what you are experiencing is real or if it is just a dream -- can only be repeated so many times until you begin wondering if this dream is ever going to end. We enjoyed the battle fought with kazoos and the cast clapping rhythms along with Barry Despenza's drums.

1635 was not a great year. Bad things happened. Calderón de la Barca sums his show up best: "Prophesy never lies when it predicts misfortune."

RATINGS: ☼  ☼  ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Life is a Dream" Three Stars for its audacity and novelty. Asher Sinaiko, who is only sixteen, may be a star in the making.

"Life is a Dream" 
Cutting Ball Theater at EXIT on Taylor 
277 Taylor Street, San Francisco
Through November 1
$10-$50 (many discounts available)

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