"The Wedding Dress" - review by Alan Smason

Tulane production to run next two weeks

Thursday October 11, 07
by Alan Smason,

Nelson Rodrigues is considered one of Brazil's most important playwrights, but his work, which stretched over 37 years, is largely unknown in this country. A notable exception is "The Wedding Dress" ("Vestido de Noiva"), his second effort as a dramatist and the first bona fide hit of his career. Written in 1943, it bears some interesting comparisons to Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth" in its innovative and original approaches to theatre. But while Wilder was intent in presenting the history of the world in encapsulated form, Rodrigues was more interested in exploring the psyche and inner world of his characters. Director Lorenzo Gonzales has assembled a talented ensemble of players who represent the collision of the planes of hallucination, memory and reality. The three act play begins with the depiction of an automobile "accident" that sends the main protagonist, Alaíde, into her delusional state as she attempts to differentiate between the points of reality and fantasy she can recall. Confused, she stumbles to discover what is real and what is imagined, what is fiction and what is fact. As the second and third acts are presented, more of the state of reality is revealed as layer after layer of disorder and chaos is eliminated and the real story of the accident emerges. The concept of using a wedding dress with its veil to describe a shadowy state of reality experienced by the recently wed Alaíde is an interesting choice. The play has all the makings for success: sex, adultery, conspiracy, jealousy, and murder. Katie Howe, who recently starred as Tracy Lord in Tulane Summer Lyric's "High Society" was brilliant as Lúcia/Veiled Woman, a literally hazy figure to Alaíde, played quite well in two manifestations by Elizabeth McCarthy (Hallucination) and Leeann Kovalow St. John (Memory). Gonzales chose to use two actresses in this staging, a deviation from the original play. Other notable performances were turned in by Allison Blackwell as Madame Clessi, a scarlet woman from the mid-1950's and Andrew Wuestenfeld as Pedro and Alfredo, the love interest(s) of Clessi and Alaíde in the two time periods. Most of the remainder of the cast cavorts about the stage in seductive fashion representing doctors, paperboys, and prostitutes. In fact, there are a great number of prostitutes portrayed in the play by the attractive cast. As prostitutes, they all do a great job of convincing the audience of their aloofness and cynicism in matters of the heart, while occasionally giving in to simulated sexual forays or other acts of passion. Choreographer Diogo de Lima presented his dancer actors with some considerable challenges which they met head on. The scenic designs by Emily Ross were also imaginative. The costumes by Paule Lemasson were well executed and the actresses who filled the designs -- especially the prostitutes -- were spilling out of the gowns in a most complimentary fashion. Silk and satin negligees seemed to fill the stage during most of the action. Martin Sachs should also be credited as having done another fine job as both lighting and sound designers. The student production continues tonight with a special panel discussion following its resolution. Performances will be held Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons as well as next Wednesday and Thursday nights. (Because of adult situations and some simulated sex, it is probably not appropriate for very young audiences.)