Samba, Brazilian culture and comedy hit the stage in the theater department’s latest production, “The Dog’s Will” by Brazilian playwright Ariano Suassuna.
Directed by actress and artist-in-residence Alma Martinez, this play, originally called “Auto da Compadecida,” presents a satire of society and class structure of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, one of the poorest regions of Brazil.
The plot is narrated by the Clown (Alex Freitas) and follows two penniless rogues, Juan Cricket, played by ULV alumnus Alvaro Renteria and Chico (Aaron Avalos). They formulate a devious plan to attain wealth and expose hypocrisy in the Catholic Church along the way.
Cricket and Chico’s boisterous characters are paired with slapstick comedy, including over-the-top facial expressions and animated body movements—an embodiment of their almost “Punch and Judy” puppet relationship.
Along the way, they encounter equally outrageous characters, such as the greedy Baker (Audie Munoz), his promiscuous wife (Mona Lutfi) and their dog on wheels (disclaimer: no real animals were harmed in the making of this play).
The dog’s unfortunate death is a cataclysmic event that plummets the plot forward into a melee of judgment calls with the gold-clad Bishop (Wayne Keller), the clumsy Priest (Jordan Klomp) and the foul Sacristan (Jessie Bias).
All the church leaders are discovered to be equally as deceitful and greedy as the townspeople, depicting corruption in the Catholic Church.
Everyone in the town chases after money and tries to achieve wealth through means of secrecy, but no one succeeds as much as Severina (Destiny Guillory), the town bandit.
With coercion, she attains the money at the end of act one, but her actions eventually lead to a community mass trial with Satan (Steven Forns), Jesus (Myron Woods) and Mary (Vicky Campos).
In the second act, all town members are put forth in the eyes of God and are judged for their actions.
With the addition of proper lighting, sound effects, a fog machine and a trap door, Satan’s entrance is a standout in the second act, as he dangles above the stage by a single rope.
Next to his trusty Devil (Jackie Pimental), he engages in a showdown with Cricket, who acts as a defense attorney to the immoral townspeople and church members.
The placement of these religious figures is representative of a miracle play, which focuses on representations of Bible stories.
This play combines multiple stage techniques to create a masterful work of art.
The flamboyant acting style used is Commedia dell’arte, which has a set of stock characters and archetypes such as foolish old men and devious servants.
Live sound effects such as the “ba dum tss” of a drum are incorporated in the performance and compliment the character’s actions, while adding to the slapstick comedy.
The stage is structured as theater-in-the-round, or arena theater style, which allows the characters to directly interact with the audience because the audience is surrounding the stage, rather than sitting across from it.
During the performance, the characters would often sit next to an audience member, acting as if he or she were in on the conflict going on. This engagement of the audience proved to be well entertaining and brought forth many laughs.
“The Dog’s Will” is a highly amusing play that features action, comedy and satire all in one.
There is still a chance to see the play on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Erum Jaffrey can be reached at email@example.com.