Dallas — Teatro Dallas’ Domingos Fantásticos production of El barquito de papel (The Little Paper Boat) by Brazilian playwright Sylvia Orthof, directed by Colombian actor/director Sorany Gutiérrez, brings a fresh, brings energy to TD’s intimate space. A piece better described as theater for young audiences, the one-hour play is full of magic, exuberant physical acting, and a new stage design look for the Jesse Tafalla stage. The compact piece of entertainment packs a punch on all counts. While it is in Spanish, an English libretto is provided, and the physicality of the performance make the plot comprehensible as visual entertainment. This is a great play to bring students and aficionados of the Spanish language of all ages. It is for all audiences that still believe in the magic and the curiosity of children.
The program notes inform us that the playwright, Sylvia Orthof (1932-97), a Brazilian theater for young audiences specialist, was inspired by two sources in writing this play. One was Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) and the other was Mexican poet Amado Nervo (1870-1919). The plot follows Niño (Boy, played by Carlos Martín) and La Lavandera (the Washer Woman, Sorany Gutiérrez) in his quest to retrieve his lost little paper boat. The moral of the story is pretty much “if you really love something, let it go.” Martín, a Madrid-born actor, has extensive training with contemporary dance, clown and improvisation techniques, and it shows in this performance.
Gutiérrez, in multiple roles as actor, director, play adaptor, and production design, brings a freshness to this that clearly distinguishes it from, yet provides credible continuity to, Teatro Dallas productions. Teatro Dallas has a long trajectory of physical theater and theater for young audiences. What Gutiérrez brings to the mix is a fresh visual and performance aesthetic. The stage design by Nick Brethauer (TD company member and graduate of Texas A & M) included a crisp, shadow box-like black and white cut outs which enlarged the small performance space and gave it depth, without resorting to projections or multi-level structures. This stage design was not only effective, but minimalist and visually pleasing.
Robert Moreno (Captain Magician, sound) opened the show with his mesmerizing magic. He made a lit candle appear and disappear from a piece of cloth, and did incredible things with metal rings, hooking them and unhooking them in ways that defy logic. His physical presence and the music accompaniment of his perambulatory magic show set the mood for the fantastic world to come. The audience also learned to make its own paper boat!
The physicality of the performance, accompanied by an exuberant musical score (by Michael D. Gómez, and Southern Methodist University as well as London School of Music graduate), displayed the dance-physical talents of Gutiérrez, Martín, Sixto Orellana (as the Sun and Dream), Krishma Trejo (as the scary Princess and the Firefly), and Armando Monsiváis (as the endearing Toad, and on sound effects). Michael Robinson, theater professor at Brookhaven College, designed the costumes, which dovetailed perfectly with the overall production aesthetics.
As usual, TD cofounder Jeff Hurst designed the lighting, and this time Cora Cardona took a back seat as assistant director to Sorany Gutiérrez in a move that may signal a shift for Teatro Dallas. If this is the case, ¡Suerte y Adelante, Teatro Dallas! We look forward to many more years of entertainment from you.
One suggestion to be made is the programming time. 8:00 p.m. may be a bit late in the evening for families to bring youngsters to the theater. An earlier time slot may draw more of the audience for which this piece was intended.
» Teresa Marrero is Professor of Latin American and Latina/o Theatre in the Spanish Department at the University of North Texas. She is also a steering committee member of the Latinx Theatre Commons.