Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Espejos: Clean - Hartford Stage

 The concept of the Hartford Stage play, Espejos: Clean, makes for intriguing, if not always compelling theater.  The two-character show employs Supertitles (translations displayed about the performance space) whenever one of the performers speak.  Adriana is the manager of a group of cleaning staff at a Mexican resort in Cancun.   Her dialogue is entirely in Spanish, with English Supertitles.  Sarah is a single white woman from Vancouver who is the Maid of Honor at her younger sister’s destination wedding.  Her inner thoughts and interactions with Adriana are in English with Spanish Supertitles.  While lending a degree of authenticity to the characters the Supertitles can be problematic as they necessitate quick reads in order to also appreciate the acting below on stage.

The two protagonists are usually on stage by themselves.  The plot focuses on Adriana, her humble backstory and struggles, primarily the death of her father and skirmishes at work.  Sarah, a party-hardy young woman, is not always reliable and more of a headache for her unseen mother and sister.  Eventually, their paths cross, sparking a series of revelations, truths and reckonings that, in the end, are reworkings of well-worn territory. 

Playwright Christine Quintana’s work, at its core, is of female empowerment.  The women are damaged individuals that, nonetheless, discover their strengths and passions during the week-long time frame.  Ms. Quintana utilizes inner monologues and dream sequences to help shape her characters and situations.  For myself, as someone who speaks English and only a little Spanish, the dual language approach works best in painting a vivid picture of Adriana.  Her character comes across as credible and substantial.

Emma Ramos gives her portrayal of Adrianna a richness and believability that anchors the production.  She is an emotional whirlwind as she juggles personal demons and professional demands.  Kate Abbruzzese imbues Sarah with a daftness and irksome manner that is both irritating and ingratiating.  The actress is convincingly volatile and demonstrative in her actions and demeanor.  There is also a solid on-stage chemistry between the two women.

Director Melissa Crespo seamlessly moves the performers on and off the stage.  Working with Lisa Renkel’s superb Projection Design, she beautifully creates different locales and scenarios.  The concern with two character plays is keeping the production vibrant and full of movement.  Ms. Crespo successfully overcomes these issues, ably assisted by Mariana Sanchez’s highly evocative two level Scenic Design, Colleen Doherty’s shimmering Lighting Design and the, at times, thunderous Sound Design by Daniela Hart & UptownWorks.  While there is no easy answer in solving the Supertitle problem, it is something that should be reviewed for future productions.

Espejos: Clean, playing at Hartford Stage through February 5.  Click here for ticket information, dates and times.

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