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Playing with imaginary friends may be cute for children, but less so for dramatists. In his labored comedy
Spain—a 2006 Summer Play Festival entry now produced by MCC—Jim Knable constantly upstages his boring bourgeois heroine, Barbara, with her inner Conquistador, who develops an overly complex life of his own. If Harvey showed us the big rabbit, who’d care about Jimmy Stewart?
Barbara longs to escape her cheating husband and drone job for more exotic surroundings. (See title.) But her daydreams conflate sultry Iberian romance with violent New World conquest—which becomes both morally unsettling and thematically confusing. Knable’s inclusion of a Mayan “Ancient” in Barbara’s role-playing marital-revenge fantasies may be a bow to postcolonial sensibilities, but the figure’s medicine-man mumbo-jumbo reinforces unfortunate stereotypes. Such glib appropriation of imperialist imagery is made only more offensive by being in service to an unoriginal domestic storyline.
And to a “comedy” with no good laughs. A script this flimsy needs to fire off an explosive gag a minute, but Knable just doesn’t have the artillery. Jeremy Dobrish, normally an expert director of whip-cracking farce, can’t keep the pace up or the tone consistent; while the hilarious Michael Aronov plays the Conquistador’s boastful machismo to the hilt, a miscast Annabella Sciorra acts Barbara’s scenes as flat naturalism. Sadly wasted are the talents of Veanne Cox and Lisa Kron—
Kron’s legendary cross-dressing skills seem exploited only to avoid hiring additional actors for the walk-on roles.
Spain the country may be a beautiful place to live, but Spain the play you shouldn’t even visit.