PICASSO: MATADOR DE MÁLAGAby Matthew Posey
Ochre House Theater
Directed by Matthew Posey
Scenic Design: Izk Dvs
Costume Design: Fernando Hernandez & Justin Locklear
Lighting Design: Kevin Grammer
Prop Design: Mitchell Parrack
Original Music: Alfonso Cid & Calvin Hazen
Pablo Picasso: Antonio Arrebola
Jacqueline Roque: Delilah Buitrón Arrebola
Mari-Thérèse Walter: Danielle Bondurant
Françoise Gilot: Frida Espinosa-Müller
Dora Maar: Kate Fisher
David Douglas Duncan: Chris Sykes
Georges Braque: Christian Taylor
Cantaor & Flute: Alfonso Cid
Guitarrista: Calvin Hazen
Reviewed Performance: 6/24/2017
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I could stop there, and let you purchase tickets to the show to see for yourself – which I strongly suggest you do, but I would like to give credit to the outstandingly superb art that is being performed in this tiny little theater on Exposition Avenue.
When I walked into the small space, I was greeted as if I were a long-missing family member, arriving for an evening of entertainment. The space was warm and inviting, and there was laughter mixed in with the murmur of conversation. It was a beautiful way to be prepared for what was to come.
I sat in my front row seat and began to take in the scenic design by Izk Dvs. The set was exactly as it should be. I was looking into a room in Picasso's home, with artwork hung and strewn about, including one very large canvas at the rear of the stage. All of the reproductions were in two colors, red and black, which provided a hint of the love and grief that would be depicted in the performances throughout the evening.
Picasso: Matador de Malága tells a story of the life and loves of the artist, Pablo Picasso, as told through vignettes guided by Jacqueline Roque, who was Picasso's wife at the time of his death, and the woman who is in more of Picasso's paintings than any other woman. The play, as written by Posey, provides just enough information to inform even those who have never followed any of Picasso's artistry about the troubled life he led, but also inspired me to learn more. This is the best part of art – to be inspired to learn and do more.
The story is carried along through dialogue between a photographer, David Douglas Duncan, who has been hired by Jacqueline to inventory and catalog all of the paintings at Picasso's home in Malága. Chris Sykes did an outstanding job as he delivered his performance of Duncan's quiet demeanor as he shot pictures and listened to Jacqueline tell the story of her love for Picasso.
The three women, aside from Jacqueline, who were included were Mari-Thérèse Walter, Françoise Gilot, and Dora Maar. This trio were the three who Picasso loved the most, aside from Jacqueline, among Picasso's mistresses. The women who played these three, Danielle Bondurant, Frida Espinosa-Müller, and Kate Fisher did a superb job with impeccable timing and body language that exposed love, anger, and regret in nearly the same breath.
One especially meaningful scene between Picasso, portrayed by Antonio Arrebola, and Dora Maar, played by Frida Espinosa Müller, was spoken entirely in Spanish but the actor and actress did such a fine job of depicting the argument with gestures and facial expressions, that there was no doubt about the topic of the argument. This kind of expertise in acting is fascinating to watch, and Müller and Arrebola delivered this portion of the action with perfection.
Arrebola, along with his wife, Delilah Bruitrón Arrebola, were the center of the story in the roles of Picasso and Jacqueline. The chemistry between them during each beautiful dance was electrifying and magnificent. The Flamenco performances between these two experienced actors and dancers were so intimate and revealing, it almost felt like I was eavesdropping through a window into their home. The passion, love, anger, and grief that flowed across their bodies as they performed each dance was simply perfect and amazing to watch. These seasoned actors and dancers were a great choice for director, Posey, and their performances were superlative.
Mingled throughout the evening, and the part that makes this production extremely worth seeing are the Flamenco dances and music. The dancers, including nearly everyone in the cast, performed in a way that complemented and continued the story. In a fascinating choice by the director, many of the dances ended with live depictions of Picasso's paintings. As the dancers moved into position, it was not clear what painting would be brought to life, then with a final move, the view would suddenly strike a memory and bring Picasso's art to mind.
This embedding of Picasso's art, both in concrete ways, such as the paintings hung on the set, and in abstract, such as the depictions if the dancers, was also carried through in costumes and hair design. Costumes by Fernando Hernandez and Justin Locklear included long black dresses for the female dancers with the minimum of ruffles to highlight the Flamenco stylings, and black shirts and slacks for the men. Buitron-Arrebola even wore her hair in a manner that often shrouded half of her face which is how we see her in so many of Picasso's paintings. This fine attention to detail created an immersive experience.
Framing every dance was original music by Alfonso Cid and Calvin Hazen. As Cataor, Cid's vocal stylings expressed deep sorrow and love at all the right moments. Performing on guitar, Hazen's beautiful and meticulous music told a story of love and of love lost. The pair's music set a tone that both complemented and deepened the stories unfolding on stage.
Everything about the performances by every person on the stage was perfection. The Flamenco dancing was exactly as it had to be, full of desire and angst. The direction of the very talented writer, Matthew Posey, helped to bring the true vision of his piece to life. The extreme talent Posey chose to portray each character was impressive. The very venue was exactly what was needed to earn the standing ovation this performance received by everyone in the house, including the critic, which is not something I typically do when I'm reviewing a show.
If you haven't figured it out already, you simply must purchase tickets to this incredible and meaningful performance. It deserves to be seen.
Ochre House Theater
825 Exposition Avenue
Plays through July 1
Wednesday through Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
Tickets at the door $25, or purchase online at www.ochrehousetheater.org.
Performance is intended for audiences 18+