Entertainment Central Pittsburgh – Most great plays are successful because they are entertaining and relatable. Case in point is Quantum Theatre’s production of the Spanish playwight Félix Lope de Vega y Carpio’s Peribáñez. Chronicling the human condition and touching on elements of love, honor, honesty, jealousy, humor, power, and poverty, Peribáñez‘s plot could easily be a modern-day movie or even a soap opera.
An Interesting Playwright
Lope de Vega acquired knowledge in many different areas of life. He was born in Madrid in 1562. A gifted student, he was educated in a school run by poet and musician Vicente Espinel, and then by the Jesuits and a bishop. He was on the path to becoming a priest when he fell in love and realized that a celibate life was not for him. After serving in the Spanish navy, Lope de Vega turned to writing plays, poetry, and novels. With many love affairs, scandals, and tragedies, he no doubt had plenty of material on which to base his plays. In 1614, at the age of 51, Lope de Vega finally joined the priesthood.
He was a prolific and quick-paced writer who authored over 3,500 individual pieces, some completed in less than 24 hours for demanding patrons. Lope de Vega is also recognized for creating such masterworks as The Dog in the Manger, The Widow from Valencia, and The Dance Teacher. Spanish history, religion, mid-level nobility, and everyday peasants were recurring threads in his tales. Many of his plays were written in an innovative three-act comedia style. Lope de Vega was a contemporary of England’s William Shakespeare.
The Power of Love, and Jealousy
The foundation for Peribáñez is the seemingly boundless love between a newly married couple—a peasant farmer named Peribáñez (Siddiq Saunderson) and his beautiful wife Casilda (Isabel Pask). The play opens with a wedding reception scene with the bride and groom, friends, and the priest. The celebration is going merrily along with guitar music and people singing. The bride and groom share exclamations of their love. Peribáñez states his love for Casilda “is greater than the miracle of wheat in the summer,” and she replies that her love for him is “like muscles aching from smiling happiness, or Easter cake with marzipan on it.” Their proclamations of love continue humorously for several minutes with both Saunderson and Pask beaming in full animation.
Peribáñez is dressed in what almost looks like a gaucho-style outfit with a round black hat. Casilda’s wedding clothes consist of a long, prettily patterned red skirt , white blouse, and somewhat fancy shawl. Her hair is adorned with flowers. Pask’s dimples add to her beauty. Together they make a very good-looking couple.
Everything is going fine until someone runs in to the reception and says a wild bull is on the loose and charging everything and everyone in sight. Then a man injured while trying to recapture the bull is carried into the farmer’s house. He’s unresponsive, and everyone thinks he is near death. The man is a local noble and military man known as the Commander (Mike Mihm). Peribáñez and the others run to seek help, and Casilda is left alone to watch over the seemingly dying Commander. The Commander makes a miraculous recovery, and when he opens his eyes sees Casilda and asks, “Are you an angel?” She responds that she isn’t. The main plot line is set into motion as the love-struck Commander schemes to take Casilda from Peribáñez…