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    Las Meninas

    ‘Las Meninas’ was a great show with superior quality all around. Right off the bat, one notices the ornate set, complementary lighting, and beautiful, historically accurate costumes. This already puts the show ahead of other Stony Brook productions done with sparse sets and costumes.

    Set in the reign of King Louis XIV, this play was a good period piece whose actors paid meticulous attention to the setting. The ensemble of attendants and servants did a fantastic job of moving and showing facial expressions indicative of the late 1600s. The attendants moved wonderfully together and served as a chorus of sorts, reacting to the king and queen.

    The servants, played by Katie Burke and Jessica Di Carlo, were hilarious in their use of physical comedy. The king, played by Brian Avery, had a comedic portrayal complete with accent and requisite royal snobbery. Jillian Cross did a wonderful job as Queen Marie-Therese by acting emotional, comical, bereft, romantic, and happy all at the same time. All of these characters set the light premise for the show in Act I, but deeper undertones can be felt under this royal, pleasant exterior.

    Also setting the darker tone of the play is Louise Marie-Therese, portrayed dramatically by Odalis Hernandez. Her partnership with Mother Superior, played by Knilo Soleil, is extremely scary and disturbing but in turn hard not to watch. Ms. Soleil did a great job merely by using her eyes and presence to entice fear in both Louise and the audience. Actually, both of these actresses are very strong and bring much passion and sadness to their positions in the convent. They reappear throughout the play serving a narrative function.

    The story takes an interesting turn when the seemingly restless but charming queen receives a strange present in a large box. Her gift, Nabo Sensugali, happens to be an African-American midget desperate to return home and is dissatisfied with his surroundings. Nabo Sensugali (his last name is apt), played by Andy Lucien, is a challenging role because of the character’s circumstances. Mr. Lucien deserves much credit for his accent and his bending on knees for the duration of the performance.

    Throughout the play, the Queen and Nabo develop a relationship reminiscent of Huck Finn his slave Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The person regarded by society as literally dark, dirty, and small ends up being the savior and friend to the highly regarded white person. The queen is being shamefully neglected by her husband, and Nabo provides companionship, empathy, entertainment, and much needed attention. At first it is difficult to tell to what extent Nabo cares for her, but at the end of Act I his feelings become apparent when he illicitly makes love to Marie, and gives her a child.

    Act II really shows the dramatic range of this script. It is well written in that the dialogue can go from witty/comical to dramatic/depressing in seconds. When Marie gives birth to Nabo’s daughter it is funny to watch the king’s haughty, uncomfortable reaction, but also devastating at the same time because he sends the infant away. It is then revealed to us that our narrator Louise is indeed Nabo and Marie’s daughter. This is shocking as it is so sad because we see what Louise has become and how much her parents wanted to love her. The actors really did a terrific job here showing a wide range of emotions and communicating a strong message to the audience.

    This show is rich with deep symbolism that should not go unnoticed. Size and stature are obviously paramount in the French society during this time. Therefore, the king is considered to be the bigger, better man. However, his true colors show him to be overly condescending, unfaithful to his wife, and painfully apathetic. If we contrast him with Nabo, who literally is smaller and lower in stature, Nabo proves himself to be kind, generous, caring, and personable. He really is the bigger man, regardless of his size and rank in the kingdom.

    This play was aesthetically pleasing, wonderfully acted, and well written. If your aim in seeing it be either amusement or emotional depth, you will experience both and more.

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