Last Updated: 4:23 PM, November 17, 2011
Posted: 10:50 PM, November 16, 2011
Language isn’t the only thing separating the new theatrical production of “La Strada” from its inspiration. This Spanish-language adaptation of Federico Fellini’s classic 1954 Italian film uses its circus setting as an excuse for extended bits of clowning. What should be a haunting fable instead comes across as silly comedy.
Presented by a Spanish theater company of the same name, “La Strada” begins with a nearly half-hour sequence depicting three clowns going through elaborate mimed routines. One of them, the Fool (Israel Ruiz), comes to figure prominently in the plot, which involves a simple-minded young woman, Gelsomina (Nanda Abella), who’s sold by her mother to Zampano (Luis Carlos de La Lombana) as a foil for his strongman act.
Although Zampano physically abuses his young assistant, he also falls in love with her. Unfortunately, so does the Fool, resulting in a love triangle that has fateful consequences.
The simple tale has an elemental power that’s only fitfully realized in Rene Buch and Jorge Merced’s uneven staging. It is most effective in its quieter moments, especially in the scene in which the Fool tries to convince Gelsomina that she deserves better.
Ruiz’s Fool, alternately hilarious and affecting, is the standout, while Abella and de La Lombana, though fine, are unable to shake memories of the immortal film performances by Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina, Fellini’s wife and muse.
Non-Spanish speakers will have no problem here: Simultaneous translations are provided via supertitles, though their placement at a corner of the stage often means having to choose between reading and watching the performers.