Photo: Andrew Propp
In Constellation Theatre’s new retelling of Zorro co-playwright and director Eleanor Holdridge cuts straight to the action. Unlike other hero tales which place emphasis on backstory and the journey towards a fully realized superhero, Holdridge spends minimal time before we see the iconic black mask of Zorro. Instead the 100 minute, single act production is packed with lots of swashbuckling that played out very well in the confined spaces of The Source Theatre. Fight director Casey Kaleba’s choreography is worthy of praise for it is one of the highlights of show. When swords aren’t drawn, barbs are exchanged through Holdridge & Janey Allard’s script. Audiences will see a familiar hero in Zorro (Danny Gavigan). When the mask is on Gavigan is charming, witty, and leaves his mark with three fell swoops of his sword.
However it is when our protagonist does not have his mask on that we see Holdridge and Allard’s new vision in this classic tale.
Set in early 1800’s California, the story opens with Diego de la Vega, son of nobleman Don Alegandro (Jim Jorgensen), arriving back to the States from studying abroad. After witnessing the unjust deeds of the current government symbolized through the Governor’s son Capitan Ramon (Andres Talero), Diego decides that soembody needs to fight on the side of the people- and thus Zorro is born. The duality of Diego and Zorro are clear in the show. Diego is indecisive and somewhat effeminate. Zorro is full of bravado and willing to fight. It is the classic alter ego face-offs that’s made the latest versions of Batman and Spiderman work and it does the same for Zorro as well.
Stephanie LaVardera plays Zorro’s love interest Lolita. She’s beautiful yet has a before-her-time view on love and marriage in a time where families arranged marriages. LaVardera is also highlighted through several musical performances that I wasn’t a fan of not because she sang poorly but because I’m not a fan of musical numbers in my straight plays. The comic relief is found mostly through Ramon’s head minion Gonzales (Carlos Saldana). He does a good job at selling the laughs but walks a fine line between funny and overselling.
Constellation’s version of Zorro has hints of a darker tale than the black and white TV episodes and films of the past but doesn’t take itself very seriously. Despite a rushed and clunky resolution the show is light, entertaining, and has plenty of action to keep you watching.
Constellation Theatre Company’s production of Zorro, performs through February 17th at the Source Theater. The Source Theater is located at 1835 14th Street NW Washington DC 20009. Closest Metro stop: U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo (Green/Yellow line). For more information call 1-800-494-TIXS.