EmptyMCC Theater, New York
Through Nov. 17
The last time many of us saw Annabella Sciorra, she was passionate, jealous Gloria Trillo and intensely, if fatally, involved with Tony Soprano. In "Spain," a new off-Broadway play by Jim Knable, she again is intense but also tender and funny. Still, not even Sciorra can rescue this heavy-handed comic fantasy about a woman's self-discovery.
"Spain" takes place in any recognizable American city but mostly in the imagination of Barbara (Sciorra), whose husband (Erik Jensen), as she repeatedly says, has "left me for some slut with a boob job." When we first see Barbara, she is telling us dreamingly about Spain. Then, lo and behold, what should arrive on her sleek, cream-colored living-room couch but a Spanish Conquistador (Michael Aronov), complete with shield and a long sword and biceps that would make any woman drool.
Indeed, some of Act 1 is humorous enough to make us think we are in for a pleasantly silly theatrical ride. The chest-beating Conquistador comes with a sardonic Ancient (the marvelous Lisa Kron, gotten up in colored feathers and a gigantic headdress), who seems to have arranged the Spaniard's cross-century trip. There also is Barbara's oddly named co-worker Diversion (Veanne Cox), who no longer allows herself fantasies, pleasant or otherwise. And there is Sciorra's Barbara, turning the Conquistador's brutal methods on her husband, to farcical effect.
But by Act 2, it is clear that the playwright has run out of vigorous ideas. Perhaps thinking that Barbara's bloody Act 1 fantasies are politically incorrect, Knable softens her and her Conquistador lover and brings in gooey symbolism involving desire and the soul. Fantasy piles confusingly on top of fantasy, and then, apparently not knowing what else to do, Kanble tacks on an unsurprising ending.
Director Jeremy Dobrish sets a brisk pace during Act 1 but has trouble making theatrical gold out of that mostly leaden second half. Fortunately, he has assembled the sort of cast that can work miracles with any material. Kron ("Well") brings a wonderfully dry touch to an assortment of roles both male and female, while Aronov captures the Spaniard's comic braggadocio. Cox raises a laugh simply by tossing her hair, and Jensen ("The Bronx Is Burning") subtly reveals the jerk within Barbara's deceiving husband.
And Sciorra, once again, proves her exceptional range and versatility.
Presented by MCC Theater by special arrangement with the Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation
Playwright: Jim Knable
Director: Jeremy Dobrish
Scenic Design: Beowolf Boritt
Costume Design: Jenny Mannis
Lighting Design: Michael Gottlieb
Sound Design: Jill BC Du Boff
Conquistador: Michael Aronov
Diversion: Veanne Cox
John: Erik Jensen
Ancient, others: Lisa Kron
Barbara: Annabella Sciorra