Let me start by admitting I'm a huge fan of playwright Lynn Nottage.
It began with her wonderful Intimate Apparel at Center Stage. When I met the playwright at Lincoln Center a few years ago, I told her the play had all the makings of a musical. She responded quickly that she was thinking of maybe an opera.
Center Stage also presented Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine and Crumbs from the Table of Joy.
Arena Stage just won a Helen Hayes Award for Best Play for the incredible Nottage play Ruined. (For you other Nottage fans, you can see Ruined at the Fells Point Corner Theatre beginning May 4 - 410-276-7837 or visit www.fpct.org).
When I noticed that Columbia's Rep Stage was presenting her Las Meninas I jumped at the opportunity to see another one of her works. I was not disappointed.
But, the name of the play. Remember "Little Sallie" from Urinetown who questioned the name of the musical? (Speaking of Urinetown, it plays at the Howard Community College's Smith Theatre May 3 - 13. I LOVE this show. Visit www.HowardCC.Edu/Artscollective or call 443-518-1500).
The name "Las Meninas" is Spanish for "The Maids of Honor" from the 1656 Deigo Velazquez painting. "The Maids of Honor" referred to the ladies in waiting to the Spanish Queen who was married to Louis XIV and hence was the Queen of France. It's great to see a play and learn a little bit about history.
I have to compliment Michael Stebbins (Producing Artistic Director) for bringing this play to the professional Equity theatre in residence at Howard Community College which is concluding its 19th season.
Director Eve Muson directs a twelve member cast who all do a wonderful job.
The plot involves a gift given to the Queen in a large box. Out pops a nubian dwarf named Nabo who becomes her African servant. Playing the dwarf is the amazingly talented KeiKyn Durrell Jones who must play his role in the crouch position the entire evening as if he's a baseball catcher. What was Nottage thinking when she created this role?
Playing the Queen is Katie Hileman who must deal with her nefarious French King (the terrific Drew Kopas).
What is a Queen to do when she's ignored by her husband and along comes a clever and handy servant who just happens to be a dwarf? (Remember the lyric from Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, "Dwarfs are very upsetting").
Needless to say, the Queen becomes pregnant and has a daughter, Louise Marie-Therese (played by the talented Fatima Quander) who is in fact the narrator of the play.
A highlight of the evening is Susan Rome who tackles two roles, that of the Mother Superior and Queen Mother. She is some accomplished actor.
Kudos to the incredible set design by Elena Ziotescu who uses a mirror above the action (a la A Chorus Line)which also serves as a see-through scrim. Ziotescu also designed the clever costumes. The wild wigs are by Celestine Ranney-Howes and the moving lighting design is by Dan Covey.
All this play needs is a new name.
Las Meninas continues to May 6. There is a free post-show discussion on May 4 and a pre-show free lecture, Saturday, May 5 at 12:30 p.m. prior to the 2 p.m. matinee in Monteabaro Hall. Renee Brozic Barger, director of HCC's dance program will be demonstrating period dance and talking about the importance of dance, music, and order in the court of Louis XIV.
For tickets, call 443-518-1500 or visit www.repstage.org or email to BoxOffice@howardcc.edu.
REP STAGES ANNOUNCES 2012/2012 SEASON