Diversifying the Classics |
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Love’s a Bitch at UVA

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of watching Dave Dalton’s Love’s a Bitch, an agile and very funny adaptation of Tirso de Molina’s Don Gil de las Calzas Verdes, at UVA: http://drama.virginia.edu/news/story/576

 

Dalton, an assistant professor of drama, has made a name for himself with adaptations of the classics, including a pro-wrestling-inspired version of Wagner’s Ring cycle and lively takes on Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore and Lope de Vega’s Dog in the Manger. In Love’s a Bitch, he combines freshness and humor with a keen eye for the stakes of the text.

 

Dalton pares away much of the bewildering complexity of Tirso’s play, but leaves enough of its whirlwind quality to keep the audience guessing about what will come next. From the very first scene, his adaptation has a kind of x-ray effect, peeling back the layers of the original to reveal its raw ideological and emotional core. Instead of a cross-dressed Juana relating her erotic travails to a servant, Dalton opens with a powerful scene of the runaway discovered by her father. Defying him, she forces him to give her his clothes and continues undaunted to Madrid to right her wrongs. And this is just the beginning!

 

The production’s pared-down scenery helped the audience focus on the language and characters, while the extravagant costumes, by Gweneth West, underscored the key connection between dress and identity in the play. The acting was strong across the board, with the two female leads, Mimi Robinson as Juana and Natalie Pernick as Inés, as real standouts.

 

In Dalton’s hands, the comedia is not only well served but hugely invigorated. Here’s to many more such adaptations and productions!

 

—Barbara Fuchs

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