Rarely does one get an opportunity to see a play by Lope de Vega, a 16th century Spanish dramatist who is reported to have written over 2,200 plays, of which about 500 have survived. Thanks to the adventurous Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, de Vega’s delectable comedy of felicitous capriciousness “Los Melindres de Belisa” is touring New York’s five boroughs in addition to locations in New Jersey. One need only witness the starry-eyed expressions of both youngsters and adults, gathered on a warm summer eve in a Newark playground, to appreciate the imaginative skills of the traveling players.
With the play performed entirely in Spanish, a printed synopsis serves as a guide, and once digested, it’s easy for the viewer to get caught up in the romantic pursuit and deception of the devious suitors. The comedy follows a rather typical de Vega courtship formula of an enticing young maiden, suitable for a trip to the altar, who appears to find fault with every suitor she encounters.
The roles are colorfully drawn, the performances less broad than in previous seasons, specifically the widow Lisarda, played nicely by Rosie Berrido, and the tempestuous Belisa of Yaremis Felix Colin, who is making her debut with the company. Ricardo Julian Hinoa lends a commanding presence as a haughty suitor.
The actors function comfortably on the small stage, and the sound is good, despite the screeches of teens playing basketball on a nearby court and the occasional roar of passing motorcycles. Unfortunately, the stage is placed against the blinding glare of a setting sun, and it would be wise to reverse its position next year.
The play is performed on a sound yet hastily constructed platform, with a black backdrop and well-served functional furniture and minimal props. What dazzles the eye are the ornate period costumes, from the dashing militant uniforms of dragoons to ornate fancy dress ball gowns for the comely maidens.