Last week rehearsals started for the second production of our season, Life Is a Dream. The cast and creative team mingled with staff, producers and crew in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall for a quick meet and greet before diving right into a read through of Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz’s adaptation and translation of the Spanish Golden Age classic by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.
The play follows Prince Segismundo, whose father, King Basilio, locked him up in a tower when he was born, after receiving a chilling prophecy about the prince’s future. When his son is a young man, Basilio has a change of heart and decides to release him in hope that he could in fact become king, but having been treated like a prisoner his entire life, he turns into the monster his father feared. He is then drugged and locked back up in the tower. When he wakes up he is told the experience was just a dream, but when a rebel army forms to join him in the fight to restore his rightful place on the throne, he is given a final opportunity to be a better man. Segismundo’s tale, made more accessible and modern by Cruz, raises questions about what we as humans can control, and what we can’t—what is free will, and what is left up to fate.
To interpret this rarely produced, but beautiful work, director Loretta Greco—the current artistic director of the Magic Theatre—has gathered an exciting ensemble that is a blend of familiar faces and ones that like Greco, are making their Cal Shakes debut. Sean San José, who was last seen at the Bruns as the title character in 2013’s American Night: The Ballad of Juan José will take on the role of Segismundo. Breakfast at Mugabe’s Adrian Roberts will play his father Basilio, and Drama Desk-nominee Sarah Nina Hayon is Segismundo’s unlikely ally Rosaura. In an interwoven plot line, Rosaura stumbles across Segismundo’s chamber when she and her servant Clarin (the very funny Jomar Tagatac) are on a quest for revenge on Rosaura’s ex, Astolfo (Amir Abdullah), who also happens to be Basilio’s nephew, and next in line for the throne. Tristan Cunningham, whose Cal Shakes credits include last season’s The Comedy of Errors and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, plays Estrella, Basilio’s niece and Astolfo’s latest conquest, and Cal Shakes veteran Julian López-Morillas is Segismundo’s tutor, Clotaldo.