The Washington Post
GALA Hispanic Theatre’s “Doña Rosita” wallows in tedium.
How do you mount a play about the wearying passage of time without saddling the audience with that experience? Director José Luis Arellano hasn’t solved that conundrum in GALA Hispanic Theatre’s production of Federico García Lorca’s “Doña Rosita la Soltera (Doña Rosita the Spinster).”
Working with Nando López’s new adaptation, Arellano has crafted a staging whose occasional inventiveness — including clever reveals involving Silvia de Marta’s parlor-and-garden set — resonates with the text’s bursts of lyricism. But the play’s mixture of ruefulness, bleakness and bittersweet domesticity never becomes gripping, and drama and momentum are in such short supply that you feel you’re living the tedium the title character has embraced.
Rosita (Mabel del Pozo), a resident of Granada, Spain, in the 1880s, is patient when her fiance (Ariel Texidó) moves to Argentina. He promises they will soon reunite and marry, but decades pass, and she remains in the home of her aunt (Luz Nicolás) and uncle ( Texidó), who raised her. As Rosita waits for the mail, striving to ignore temporality, the flowers tended by her green-thumbed uncle symbolize time and aging. Bloomfilled buckets often pepper the stage as the GALA production unfurls in Spanish, with English surtitles.
“Rosita” reunites several of the talents from GALA’S 2015 version of García Lorca’s “Yerma,” which won six Helen Hayes awards, including for Arellano’s direction. Del Pozo pocketed one of those honors for her anguished Yerma, but as Rosita, a more passive figure, in a play that’s less intense and tragic, she comes across as bland.
Other performances are tangier. Horsing around, at one point, Texidó’s suitor pretends two citrus fruits are his own googly eyes. Catherine Nuñez aces a giggly acquaintance, and Delbis Cardona deftly handles other supporting characters. Nicolás’s aunt is valuably sharp and troubled, including when she and the opinionated housekeeper (Laura Alemán) fantasize revenge on Rosita’s caddish swain.
But the cast’s physicality doesn’t register the passage of decades, and Arellano doesn’t provide enough clarity about eras and memories. Perhaps more significantly, neither acting nor staging makes the characters’ fates seem urgent, or indeed more than poignant (although Jesús Díaz Cortés’s lighting and sound design heighten some moments). In the absence of high narrative stakes, the themes of inertia and resignation surge to the fore, sapping an arguably feminist message about Rosita’s options in society.
“And still hope pursues me,” Rosita says, as happiness seems to recede. “It circles me, it bites me; like a dying wolf clamping down with its teeth one last time.” Would that this production exerted such a hold.
Doña Rosita la soltera (Doña Rosita the Spinster), by Federico García Lorca, adapted by Nando López. Directed by José Luis Arellano; music, David Peralto and Alberto Granados; costumes, Silvia de Marta. In Spanish with English surtitles. (English translation, Heather Mckay.) About 100 minutes. $35-$48. Through Oct. 3 at GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St. NW. galatheatre.org.