In a special, one-time event, Alley Theatre has opened its doors to the suddenly homeless Mildred's Umbrella for the latter's presentation of The Hunchback of Seville, a less than reverent retelling of 16th Century Spanish history involving a dying Queen Isabella and her hunchbacked, reclusive and brilliant sister.
Patricia Duran plays the part of Maxima Terrible Segunda (whose name alone should be more than enough hint that this play by Cherise Castro Smith will be delivered with an emphasis on humor.) "I'm thrilled to be doing it," Duran says. "It's not very typical for a woman to be able to play a character role like this."
It seems Isabella, who has pretty much ignored her adopted sister, needs her help now and calls upon her to run the country. "The future of Spain is on the line. Sister is dying.So she comes for a visit," Duran says.
To say the least, the physical aspects were challenging. "I’m pretty hunched over. The script is very clear in terms of how she's described physically. Her spine is certainly hunched and she is referred to as having crippled legs. I have my right shoulder popped up toward my ear. I have my legs inverted in and, of course, that changes how I move through space, how she sits, how she lays down and it also talks about how she is physically in pain."
Amazingly enough, though, Duran says she is not in pain herself while performing. "I’m so fortunate that I’ve been able to find a position where my legs are taking a lot of the brunt and the core is taking a lot of the weight. . I was really concerned at first that I was going to feel a lot of tension and pain in my back but not yet. I have to stretch a lot before and after."
Which is good because the pace of the 70-minute one-act is fast and furious for the eight cast members, Duran says.
Describing her character, Duran says: "She is brilliant. Once character refers to her as a genius freak. she's a cartographer. She is very much into mathematics. She's also agoraphobic. She's so highly intelligent that she's socially awkward. She's been locked away in this tower which I think has fed into her phobia as well. But she's very witty; she's very sharp."
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Duran is also full of thanks to the Alley for opening its doors and allowing them to practice in its boardroom which is about the same size as the Neuhaus stage they'll be performing on. The one day the boardroom had to be used for an actual Alley meeting, Duran says, Stages Repertory Theatre stepped in and opened up its theater for Mildred Umbrella's cast members to rehearse.
She thinks the play will appeal to a wide variety of people. "I teach theater and I think that my juniors in high school are politically aware and very interested in what's happening in their world around them. I think it will speak to them and they will see parallels between what's going on in our world to what was happening in 1504 in this play." The show includes some great anachronisms and anyone who loves language and is interested in the world and history.
Part farce with another layer of drama and tragedy and a love story, this is pretty much a play that anyone should enjoy, Duran says.
Performances are scheduled for March 28 through April 6 at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and Monday April 1 and Wednesday April 3; and 3 p.m. Sunday March 31. Alley Neuhaus Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 832-463-0409 or email email@example.com. Pay what you can, suggested admission $25.