Mellon Park fits adaptation of 17th-century dramedy
Quantum Theatre makes its fourth trip to Mellon Park in Point Breeze for an open-air production of Lope de Vega’s 17th-century drama “Peribanez,” written during the Golden Age of Spanish Drama.
Like Quantum Theatre’s earlier productions in Mellon Park — “ Dark of the Moon” in 2005, “The Crucible” in 2006 and “Cymbeline” in 2008 — “Peribanez” (pronounced Peri-ban-yez) will be staged in the Jennie King Rose Garden.
But unlike those previous productions that incorporated the park’s formal boxwood hedges, “Peribanez” will be staged on elevated platforms built over the shrubbery with the audience surrounding the stage on all four sides.
The show’s co-directors, Megan Monaghan Rivas and her husband, Tlaloc Rivas, chose the location for its vistas as well as the intimate nature of the garden.
“We knew we wanted to keep the audience as intimate and wrapped around (the production) as possible,” Megan Monaghan Rivas says. “We know Quantum audiences have been in the garden before and wanted the Quantum audience to experience a new view.”
When Quantum Theatre artistic director Karla Boos invited the Rivases to suggest a play, Tlaloc Rivas suggested “Peribanez.” He had a long-standing interest in Spanish dramas between the years of 1500 and 1700.
“Because Spanish Golden Age theater productions were produced outside in courtyards, we thought it would be a good fit,” Megan Monaghan Rivas says.
De Vega’s drama begins with young newlyweds Peribanez and Casilda celebrating their wedding with their friends and family in the rural area where they farm. But their happiness is soon threatened by the arrival of the Commander, who develops an obsessive passion for Casilda. Unable to shake off his attraction to Casilda, he becomes relentless in his attempts to separate the young couple.
Their increasingly larger accommodations to placate the Commander allow de Vega to explore seemingly contemporary concerns of individual rights, gender roles and class differences.
“There is a sense of invisible forces that challenge and sometimes compromise the newlywed couple,” Tlaloc Rivas says.
The Rivases chose a contemporary adaptation by Tanya Ronder that maintains de Vega’s mixture of comedy and drama with songs, dances and asides to the audience.
The 10 cast members have created, and will perform, original music to accompany the songs Ronder wrote.
The Rivases are staging the play with costumes and scenery that are contemporary without being specific to any particular period.
“There are no cellphones. But we are not limited to the 15th to 17th centuries. All periods are somewhere here in this play,” Megan Monaghan Rivas says.
“The clothing and costumes of the (original) era are not very flattering in the weather that happens in August in Pittsburgh,” Tlaloc Rivas says.
Scenic designer Britton Mauk has created two playing areas surrounded by cages that are connected to each other by a center space.
“That’s partly because the play lives in two worlds — rural farmers and nobility,” Tlaloc Rivas says. “The scenes where they meet are in the third area where confrontations and clashes occur.”
Alice T. Carter is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.