The butterfly is an eminently symbolic creature, a living representation of death and rebirth, transformation, life and beauty.
And so it's little wonder why Federico García Lorca made this living tapestry of an insect the focal point of his first play, The Butterfly's Evil Spell, currently running at the aesthetically strong and Lorca-loving Hip Pocket Theatre.
Lorca's symbolist tale revolves around a group of beetles and the sudden appearance of the eponymous butterfly. Specifically a story of unrequited love, the crux of the action is the Boy Beetle's (Brian Cook) infatuation with the beautiful but flawed Butterfly, who is made up of a triumvirate of actresses with Julie Ballew serving as the body and primary voice, and Ingird Schaffenberg and Lori Sundeen Soderbergh manning the giant ethereal wings of the creature.
His feelings earn resentment from his mother, Dona Beetle (Cynthia Matthews), who is attempting to marry him off to the quirky, but well-to-do, Sylvia Beetle (Kristi Ramos Toler).
The events are narrated by the Witch Beetle (Michael Joe Goggans), who is entrusted with Lorca's imaginative poetry.
Through his symbolist leanings, Lorca weaves a poetic story of love and loss, and though the tale itself is somewhat tragic, the author is able to provide momentary bright spots of levity, particularly in the form of Sylvia, who is subtly hilarious thanks to Ramos Toler.
The cast is strong all around. Cook makes the audience believe he's in love with the butterfly. Goggans exhibits a deft touch in handling Lorca's words and making them enjoyable in their transfer from page to stage.
The villain of the story is the resident scorpion, appropriately named Scorpy (John Parker). His role serves to remind the beetles of the frailty of life as any other character's life subject to his whims. Parker's characterization is off kilter in that he plays the scorpion as a slovenly drunkard more given to opining than just being a baddie.
And even though they're not really a featured part of the show, the chorus of Fireflies (Kaia Ahmed, Frieda Austin, Louann Gary, Rebo Hill, Kristen Walker and Elysia Worcester) are a lot of fun and just too precious not to mention.
Contributing appropriately Spanish-tinged, fantastical music is Darrin Kobetich and Clint Niosi with an assist from vocalist Laura Jones. Hip Pocket does a lot of live music performances and it's consistently one of the more engaging and enjoyable parts of performances. And Butterfly is no different. The music adds another dimension to the performance, immersing the audience that much further amongst the blades of grass.
Not many theaters would have the wherewithal to pull off Lorca's vision. Too many would likely make literal run at the roles and costumes. Fortunately, Johnny Simons, who directs the show for the fourth time at Hip Pocket, and Diane Simons, who designed all of the whimsical and charmingly creative costumes, understand the author and the source material.
The end result is a production whose imagery matches the language note for note and creates an encompassing, immersive experience into Lorca's bug world.
No antennae needed.