“Espejos: Clean”

Hartford Stage

            Hartford Stage is currently presenting a hypnotic, dreamlike show called “Espejos: Clean.”  As written by Christine Quintana, with Spanish translation by Paula Zelaya Cervantes, this play manages to straddle the worlds of both English and Spanish with astonishing clarity.  During the course of the show, one sees two young women, Adriana, portrayed by Emma Ramos, and Sarah, played by Kate Abbruzzese, occupy the same location, a resort in Cancun, though one works at the resort and the other woman is there because her sister is getting married.  What’s amazing about “Espejos: Clean” is that it exists both in English and in Spanish.  When Adriana is speaking, there are English supertitles projected onto the very top of the set and when Sarah is talking, one sees the Spanish translation projected, as well.  This may sound like an impossible conceit to pull off, but it actually works beautifully.

            Director Melissa Crespo has staged this play on a gorgeous, sun-lit tiled set, stunningly designed by Mariana Sanchez, which encompasses multiple levels, including a hotel room on the lower level and an entrance to a pool and areas to bask in the sun on the upper level.  The actresses occasionally appear on the same areas of the set, but, more often than not, they exist in separate worlds, both physically and culturally.  What truly makes “Espejos: Clean” so good are the wonderful performances of both Ramos and Abbruzzese, and the show has really been designed to welcome both Spanish and non-Spanish speaking audience members without any confusion.  “Espejos: Clean,” envelopes the audience in both worlds and the effect is a hallucinatory and extremely emotional piece of theater.

            As it happens, though the two characters are at the resort for completely different reasons, their lives are almost parallel.  Emma Ramos, as Adriana, works as the head of the housekeeping staff and Kate Abbruzzese, as Sarah, is there because her sister is getting married.  About equal time is given to both characters and each woman, in different ways, has been emotionally and physically traumatized by someone close to them.  In one of the best uses of projections I have ever seen, courtesy of the brilliant Lisa Renkel, this show creates the entire tropical world of the resort with visual splendor and both the costume design (by Lux Haac) and the lighting design (by Colleen Doherty) are equally stellar.  During the show, the playwright has deliberately written various plot lines that may or may not be actually happening and one is soon lost in the exotic atmosphere of the production.

            In the rare moments where Adriana and Sarah share a scene together, the differences between them makes any kind of connection almost insurmountable.  Still, the characters do form a sort of bond that is both significant and heartbreaking in its intensity.  Both actresses are superb and it would be impossible to favor one over the other.  One of the most surprising choices in the show is the decision to insert an intermission in the play.  One would think that the atmosphere and dreamlike feel of the show would be difficult to replicate after having the audience take a break between acts, but “Espejos: Clean” is so masterful and well-done that one is soon lost again in the world onstage.

            “Espejos: Clean” at Hartford Stage is accessible to just about anyone, making the show something of a must to experience.  The combination of Christine Quintana’s play and the Spanish translation by Paula Zelaya Cervantes, is pretty heady and would seem to defy the show working as well as it does, but just about all the elements in the production coalesce flawlessly.  By all means, see “Espejos: Clean,” if you can, for it provides an unparalleled evening of theater that is both enticing and more than a bit frightening.  Whatever the ultimate effect, this is quite a unique show and one hopes that it will have a life beyond Hartford Stage.

“Espejos: Clean” runs through February 5, 2023 at Hartford Stage in Hartford, CT. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.hartfordstage.org.

Photo: Kate Abbruzzese and Emma Ramos

Photo by T. Charles Erickson


One thought on ““Espejos: Clean” at Hartford Stage by Zander Opper

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