Prague Fringe 2014
A heart-felt peak into Rome, 1938. Two Mexican actors bring to life their rich imaginations through a stick of chalk, a black wall, and incredibly-timed sound effects and precise staging. A Special Day was a shining star amongst the canopy of works at this year’s Prague Fringe experience.
Adapted by Gigliola Fantoni from Ettore Scola’s 1977 Oscar-nominated Italian film, Una Giornata Particolare, the storyline of A Special Day is nothing short of superb.
Mexican actors Ana Graham and Antonio Vega are at home on the stage: from the second the theatergoers walk in, both are already somewhere in between their actor and character selves, making the set-up of their production part of the performance. We are brought into their make-believe world even before we find our seats.
With a packed house, and stifling Studio Rubin conditions, the actors ably sweep us into moments of domestic morning madness, suicidal solitude, electric sexual tension, and deep friendship.
The costumes were just right, their use of space and props studied and brilliant. Graham and Vega are comfortable in their own skin, and it shows that they trust the text, the direction, as well as each other. Their command of the stage, and the carefully choreographed cues are a delight to watch. From sound effects that come straight from the actors’ mouths, to immediate changes in body and voice to simulate differences between a grown woman or a child, this piece has been nothing but sinking into theater bliss.
That the actors manage to convey two separate spaces within what seems to be a 4×6 meter stage, with dual worlds coexisting in one physical dimension, shows the painstaking direction that went into this work.
Graham and Vega utilize their props, even their chalk drawing times well into the narrative, deftly selecting beats in the play when they can take a pause, or tinker with teacups, or rush into scratching out a chalk drawing or hurriedly scrawling in a new one.
There are so many elements of good in this performance – from the actors’ work evident in their ownership of the space, their bodies, their voices, the text, and each other, to the creative and unexpected way in which they literally illustrate their spheres of existence with chalk on the walls.
And what I’ve been missing in many shows I’ve seen at Fringe is a cohesive narrative, one that has a clear exposition that draws the audience in, and then afterwards astonishes us with discovery, taking us by surprise just as the characters are likewise swept away by unexpected circumstances. A Special Day has this as a strong suit.
By the time it came around to curtain call, my heart had done several somersaults, for the display of the ebb and tide between love and tension this production brought forth. This was showcased not only between the two main actors and the two main characters, but even evident in the politically rife, Fascist backdrop of the story.
A truly outstanding show, you’re missing the entire Fringe experience if you don’t see this.