Isabel Allende’s novel The House of the Spirits (written by Caridad Svich) seeks to create an entire world, populated with three generations and spanning several decades. This is a project that requires the full theatrical toolkit, and the visual component contributes most memorably, through haunting video projections by Charlie I. Miller and the team of Robert Mark Morgan (scenic design), Deborah M. Dryden (costume design), Jane Spencer (lighting design) and Jason Ducat (sound design).
The story of the Trueba family is relieved through the eyes of Alba (Meghan Wolf), its youngest member. While held captive by a military government, she relives the story of her clairvoyant grandmother, Clara (Franca Sofia Barchiesi) and brutal grandfather (John Hutton). The opening scene is of Alba, bound and at the mercy of a military man; thoughts are inevitably of torture. We view the scene through a nearly transparent curtain, on which is projected live video of the scene. The effect is a black-and-white reduction of the action. This serves as a fitting entry into the past as Alba witnesses the acts of rape, homophobia, and class discrimination that her grandfather Esteban commits through the course of his life.
Talk of politics lightly peppers most of the story; there is a clear line drawn from individual acts and decisions and how these become magnified on a societal level, uniting both the past and present. Wolf acts as a steady guide through the long course of the play as Alba, delivering poignantly in what could be an overwrought role.
Albaâ€™s grandmother Clara is the source of otherworldly action, a connection with the spirit world. A compelling touch is the puppetry that brings to life Clara’s girlhood companion, a giant black dog nnamed Barabbas (animated by Dion Mucciacito).
The sweeping story also encompasses the development of a Latin American country, touching on themes of industrialization, class conflict, and social change the strong female characters long for. A strong ensemble cast, distinct costumes and a simple, versatile set help to fill in the picture. JosÃ© Zayas’s staging also manages to keep the many scenes varied and clear.
Through its unique style, the play delves on themes such as abuse of political power, the horrors of stifling dictatorships and women’s struggles for independence and equal rights in a world where men seamlessly avoid the consequences for their actions.
To learn more about Denver Center Theatre Company or Denver Center for the Performing Arts, click here.
Denver Center Theatre Company
1101 13th Street
Denver, CO 80204