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The Star-Ledger

Repertorio Español Hams Up Shakespeare


16 November 2003
Copyright ©2003
The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Repertorio Español of New York is best known for its dramatic presentations of classic Spanish drama, particularly the entire works of the playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. But with "The San Juan Shakespeare Company," Repertorio has come out with its funniest and most ambitious production in a very long time. This Shakespeare backstage comedy of by Eugenio Rodriguez, smoothly directed by Alfredo Galvan, fits its small stage like a fairy tale slipper. Spanish Harlem native Rodriguez co-founded and is executive director of the Puerto Rican Intercultural Drama Ensemble and his works have been produced by several New York Latino companies. The play´s hilarity begins with the its name. Never mind that the company in question isn´t a bona fide company or even versed in Shakespeare. The group of unemployed, disillusioned off-off Broadway actors think "Cyrano de Berge rac" was written by Shakespeare. They´re not from San Juan, either.

As one character points out, they´re neither Puerto Ricans nor New Yorkers - they´re Nuyoricans. Nevertheless, they decide to form a company to do Shakespeare after hearing about a $10,000 prize for the company presenting the best Shakespeare production of the year. The new company members agree that they are a democratic association, creating fodder for much of the play´s humor. The group fumbles through various Shakespeare plays before settling on one they all like. The promised director never shows up for rehearsals. The actors improvise their Shakespeare monologues - some sound like they´re right out of the barrio, while others would make the Stratford Festival proud. After they bungle and botch the tragic "Richard III," they decide to render it as a comedy. Lo and behold, it works, convincing the judges that this is the best modern adaptation of Shakespeare in the contest. The comedy continues to unfold with the company gaining more recognition from critics. It´s difficult to single out any of the seven cast members in this talented ensemble, but Joksan Ramos and Marly J. Rivera provide memorable performances, expressing excellent comedic timing, just the right mugging and charm.

"The San Juan Shakespeare Company" joins the repertory of comedies and dramas at Repertorio Español, 138 E. 27th St., which includes Mario Vargas Llosa´s "La Fiesta del Chivo" ("The Feast of the Goat"), Gabriel Gar cia Marquez´s "Crónica de Una Muerte Anunciada" ("Chronicle of a Death Foretold"), Garcia Lorca´s "La Casa de Bernarda Alba," and "Bodas de Sangre" ("Blood Wedding"), along with several modern comedies. "San Juan" performances this week are tonight at 6 p.m., Wednesday at 7 p.m., and Saturday at 8 p.m. English translation via earphones available. Tickets are $20, $25 and $30, with $5 discounts for seniors and students. Call (212) 889-2850 or go to

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