Reality is Questioned in ‘Life is a Dream’

Vanessa Aguirre

This “Dream” is anything but a nightmare.

Living up to my wonderful expectations, Wednesday night’s production of “Life is a Dream” had me enthralled by a sea of color.

Held in the studio theater, the play offers intimate moments, like that of the fight scene, which put the audience right in the action. Although the futuristic sci-fi spin was somewhat unclear at first, the Japanese influence is evident.

From the beautifully executed costumes and simplistic set design, which oozed Japanese style, to the wonderful actors, this production of Pedro Calderon de la Barcas’ “Life is a Dream,” translated and adapted by Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz, does not disappoint.

With the original score, written by Chris Lowery, being played in the background, the members of the crowd are escorted one by one into the studio theater and take their seats. After they settle in the lights go down and the show begins.

After some brief words from director Edward Douglas, the lights come up to reveal the main characters of the subplot, Rosaura, played by Jemima Santiago, and Clarin, played by the funny Tanner Morse, who have traveled from a foreign land to seek revenge on a man who has robbed Rosaura of her honor.

This in turn, causes a major love triangle between Rosaura, Astolfo and Estrella.
While exploring this new land, Rosaura and Clarin stumble upon a building that imprisons the kings only son, Segismundo.

Locked away at birth because of a prophecy that said he would bring the downfall of the kingdom, Segismundo is forced to live secluded from the world outside. He has only known the walls of his cell and his jailer, Clotaldo, played by Ryan Rogers, who has taught him all he knows.

With minor set changes, the play leaves much to the imagination. With a touch of the sci-fi feel, the prison is sealed with what seems like a force field seen in “Star Wars.”

Disguised as a man, Rosaura speaks to Segismundo of her turmoil and she soon finds out that her pain is nothing compared to that of his. Following a brief exchange between Rosaura and Segismundo, Clotaldo walks into the cell to discover Rosaura and Clarin and immediately has them arrested.

Adding to the plot, it’s revealed that Rosaura, who is still dressed as a man, is Clotaldo’s daughter. Clotaldo is then faced with a difficult choice: turn these outsiders to the King and hope for the best or keep this a secret and save the woman he believes is his son.

As the story unravels further, Segismundo is faced with further dishonestly when he is drugged and released from his prison, coaxed to believe that his many years of solitude and suffering were but a dream.

Proving that he is everything his father feared, Segismundo lets his rage take over only a short time after being told of his nobility. Throughout the rest of his “dream” Segismundo is continually reminded of the fragile state of life. Many times, he was told to be careful for “tomorrow you could wake up and discover that this were all a dream.”

Segismundo is once again drugged and wakes up in his old cell. Trying to make sense of what has happened, Segismundo goes over every aspect of his “dream” and tries to convince himself that what he saw and felt could not have been just a dream.

Adding some comedy to the production, Clarin, Rosaura’s servant, sprinkles smart and witty comments in just the right places, which adds a light and playful feel to the play.

Continuing with the traditional Spanish view of honor over pride, the play explores the power of two contrasting forces, free will and determination, in shaping one’s destiny, while Segismundo contemplates what it is he must do to change the cards fate has dealt him.

Throughout the rest of the play, Segismundo tries to come to terms with his newfound reality. With three people fighting for their rightful place on the throne, who knows what will happen?

With that in mind, be ready to take a trip to a far away land where kings and sword fights are the norm. With the beautiful costumes, talented cast and set this play is well worth the 90-minute run. For this reason I give this production 5 out of 5 stars.

“Life is a Dream” runs Thursday, Friday, Saturday, May 13, 14, and 15 at 8 p.m. and May 9?at 2 p.m.