By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Colombian director Jorge Ali Triana’s great challenge in adapting the luminous works of Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez is understandable. “One great difficulty is that readers always have the possibility of creating an imaginary production, and the imagination can go far beyond the concrete images that one creates in theatrical or cinematic language. In every reader is a director. The first challenge, I think, is to create a vision that doesn’t disillusion the spectator,” he had said in an interview.
His new play, based on Garcia Marquez’s fiction No One Writes to the Colonel (El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escriba), has fired up audiences since its debut in February 2018 at the 50-year-old Reportorio Espanol (138 E. 27 St.). It features seasoned actors German Jaramillo as the Colonel, and Zulema Clares as his wife. El Colonel will be on season till May 2018.
In El Colonel, Triana proximates to the imaginings of García Márquez, on stage. It’s an elemental prowess for him as a director and adapter, because Garcia Marquez is recognized to be one of the most important novelists of the 20th century. Garcia Marquez’s numerous works include the best-selling novels, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.
El Colonel was written in 1956 and 1957 in Paris, about an impoverished retired colonel, a veteran of Colombia’s Thousand Days’ War, who still hopes to receive the pension he was promised 15 years earlier. The drama is set during the years of martial law, rampant corruption and censorship in Colombia.
Jaramillo portrayed El Colonel splendidly, as a hopeful, light-hearted old man. His asthmatic wife, ably depicted by Clares, evokes sympathy from the audience, not so much the misery of old age and poverty as the pained insistence of hope. The colonel’s hopes for the return of their lost son, the release of his pension, and the winning of their rooster in a cockfight, is a burden to those watching the story unfold. There lies the realistic drama of Garcia Marquez on stage. Quiet gripping and pitiful. Kudos to the main actors for such portrayal.
The morbid choreography of the funeral walk is eerie, as eerie as the era of Colombia’s LaViolencia. The bouts of asthma, gasping for air and incessant coughing, is as disturbing.
Jaramillo, a native of Colombia, has appeared in the films Our Lady of Assassins, Paraiso Travel and Narcos. Clares is a long-time member of the Repertorio who played in the 17th century Spanish play Valor, Agravio, y Mujer.
El Colonel’s scenic design by Raul Abrego and the lighting design by Manuel Da Silva are indispensable elements to the show’s power.
Triana had directed previous Repertorio adaptations of Garcia Marquez including Innocent Eréndira, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and Love in the Time of Cholera.
The Repertorio is one of Off-Broadway’s longest-running, continuous theaters and the only company that presents Spanish-language/English translated (simultext) plays. It was founded in 1968 by stage director René Buch and the late Gilberto Zaldívar. They were joined by current executive producer Robert Weber Federico in 1971. The Repertorio promotes the rich heritage of Hispanic theater in the Big Apple’s world stage. (Photos by Michael Palma Mir)