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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Lucille Lortel Theatre

By Sandy MacDonald

  Annabella Sciorra,Michael Aronov and Lisa Kron/Ph:Ari Mintz

Every woman who has ever been dumped deserves her own private conquistador - especially one as buff and rough-and-ready as Michael Aronov, an imaginary (or is he?) figure in Jim Knable's new comedy Spain. We go places and name them, he brags to mousy Barbara (Annabella Sciorra, the Sopranos spitfire here cast diametrically against type). Conquering.It is a great feeling.

Barbara, whose boring office job has something to do with escrow, has just been left flat by her husband of five years: he decamped in hot pursuit of some slut with a boob job (Barbara seems to savor this phrase, repeating it at every hint of a sympathetic ear). For years she has been fantasizing about sunny, passionate Spain as the antithesis to her crushingly dull life - so when the need arises for a psychic savior, what better than a big marauding brute who can help unleash her pent-up fury? Barbara may or may not slaughter her infuriatingly nonchalant spouse (Erik Jensen) when he returns proffering a deadpan, pro forma apology as if he'd done nothing more remarkable than go out for a cup of coffee.

The reason we don't know whether any of what we see is real is that, in addition to a fully armored sixteenth-century warrior who lolls about in her apartment and occasionally coaches her in swordplay, Barbara is also receiving visitations from a feather-caped Mayan ancient (Lisa Kron of & Well, pressed into service for a whole series of masculine cameos), who emerges from her mirror. Scenic designer Beowulf Boritt wrests maximal stage magic out of the Lortel's plain proscenium, later even summoning, out of whole cloth, a glistening golden cave where once stood a bleak prison cell.

Between the bizarre apparitions and a work-buddy slash best friend named Diversion (Veanne Cox a bundle of brilliant quirks), the play sits squarely in the realm of whimsy - a locale for which some viewers may have limited tolerance. However, Knable's script, with its unexpected twists and tangents, thoroughly charms. Spain may not be a play for the ages, but it's a sprightly paso doble - and it's certainly different.

If there's any fault to be found, it might lie in the fact that, in Act 2, Aronov's big brawling conquistador has been reduced to a country bumpkin who only dreams of derring-do. In a way, Barbara achieves the bookends of female desire: She manages both to embrace the brutal conqueror (Every woman loves a fascist, as Sylvia Plath famously wrote) and to initiate his meek, virginal alter ego (whom Aronov embodies just as memorably).

Both personae of course represent, in a neat Jungian package, aspects of Barbara's shattered self. But if only there were some way to bring back that swaggering throwback! Aronov's Conquistador, at once silly and perversely impressive, leaves you lusting for more.


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