Everybody Drinks the Same Water
As beautiful and intricately constructed as a cloisonné jewel box, Miami Theatre Center's production of "Everybody Drinks the Same Water" is a work of art. The set, music, lighting, costumes and stage pictures are of the highest quality and make for a visually stunning presentation.
Accolades go out to Fernando Calzadilla for his set costumes and lighting design; to Luciano Stazzone for his original music; and finally to Stephanie Ansin for her impeccable direction.
Calzadilla's costumes are perfect period attire, representing various social classes in 13th century Medieval Spain. Large Arabic headdresses, long scarves and royal wimples adorn the actors' heads as they glide across the stage in flowing robes, a mixture of both jewel-like and muted tones.
His set, a square raked and revolving platform, looks like the top of the jewel box. The mosaic tile floor is right out of the Alhambra in Granada Spain. The vibrant color of the tiles adds to the opulence. Various pools of light are used to represent other locales as well and the upstage side of the platform, that serves to indicate the outside environment.
Stazzone's music is a mixture of middle eastern Arabic guitar, Gregorian chants and languidly dripping water. It adds to the pace of the piece as it transitions from locale to locale. The sound is rich like a strong incense and creates just the right mood for the story. Its effect is as powerful as the visual attention to detail.
Ansin's direction is deliberate as it should be in the scenes involving royalty and as light and carefree as it needs to be in the scenes outside involving the middle class frolicking. Her stage pictures are straight out of masterworks from the Prado Museum.
In one particular scene two young women simultaneously lie down for a night's rest, mirroring each other's movements down to the last detail. The visual and auditory sensations in the scene where each of the three great religions are represented through the prayers of their worshippers is particularly breathtaking.
Because of her understanding and minute attention to detail, Ansin's direction of anything by Maxwell Anderson, who loved historical setting and characters, would be a welcome addition to the south Florida theatrical landscape. It would undoubtedly be as noteworthy as her direction of Anton Chekov's "Three Sisters" last year. Here's hoping she considers it.
Barbara Sloan as the newly ascending Christian Queen seems destined for the role. Her posture and voice take the stage as she demands to know who is responsible for poisoning the public water supply. Diana Garle, in the role of the young Muslim love interest, plays Fatima like a bud blooming into an exotic flower. She inhabits the role.
Yergeniya Kats, as Leah, an educated Jewish midwife and the Doctor's daughter is just as convincing. Along with Troy Davidson as the Christian prince Alfonso, these two bring life to the drama.
The other performers include Howard Elfman as the doctor, Steve Gladstone as the representative of the remaining Muslim population, Joshua Jean Baptiste as Rodrigo and Jessica Farr as Elvira, both in service to the queen. They are all suitable in the roles they are given or one might say shackled with.
Herein lies the problem with the play. The story is not well written. All the actors are of the same voice. Sloan has the arduous task of trying to breathe life into the belabored exposition. To her credit she manages to rise above the material.
The play is written as a recitation rather than a dialogue between or among characters with their own individual voices. The delivery by the actors is stiff and wooden as the characters are too often devoid of emotion. For instance, there is no begging for the elders to be released from their imprisonment by their young charges after they have done the queen's bidding.
The lack of any real human connections is deadly and turns the play into a dry history lesson. This is a shame because as a play intended for children the lesson of religious tolerance is timely. As different as each group appears to be, they all have their shared humanity in common.
This idea is an admirable one to explore onstage. It is just too bad that the script was not as lively and colorful as all the other aspects of the production. The play is seventy minutes without intermission and includes some ritualistic elements such as the sharing of the purified water.
"Everybody Drinks the Same Water" runs through June 1 at the Miami Theatre Center, 9806 NE 2nd Ave, Miami Shores, FL 33138. For tickets or information, call 305-751-9550 or firstname.lastname@example.org