“La Nona” FIU Theatre’s first production completely in Spanish

Photo courtesy of Wayne Wilde. Pictured from left: Miguel Bonilla, Daniel Medina-Lopez, Lovanni Gomez, Roselyn Moreno, and Alfonso Vieites.

For the first time in 42 years, the Department of Theatre will stage a play completely in Spanish.

“La Nona,” Roberto Cossa’s story of an immigrant family working to feed their grandmother, opens on Friday, Sept. 23. For instructor Marina Pareja, who did the play years ago in English, it’s a real change.

“I wanted to give it another try, and do it in Spanish, because when I did it in English I felt that it didn’t translate properly,” Pareja said.

Although Pareja says that staging the play in Spanish caters to the bilingual community and fills a void in the department, costume designer Caroline Frias and set designer Mario Alonso said they nevertheless faced with a language barrier.

“This show has been one of the most challenging designs ever presented to me. I don’t speak any Spanish, so I had to read an English version of the script,” Alonso said. “Things get lost in translation, so the designers reading the Spanish script vs. me reading English script might get two different ideas about the scenes throughout the show.”

Frias said the English script didn’t do the play justice, as the “narrative flows better in Spanish.”

Alonso said the novelty of a completely Spanish show will have a payoff for the department.

“Some people may be like, ‘Oh, cool, it’s a theatre piece in Spanish,’ but it’s a huge deal for us, and I think it’s a really great opportunity,” Alonso said.

Pareja, the play’s director, said that in addition to wanting to redo the story in Spanish, she chose the show because of its relevance to the community.

“It’s relevant in the sense that it deals with different issues. Mainly, it has to do with the working middle class and how powerless they can be in front of unforeseen forces sometimes. It’s very relevant to our political, economic and social issues right now. It also has to do with immigration issues, to an extent,” Pareja said.

Set in 1970s La Boca, “La Nona” follows the struggles of a family who immigrated to Argentina. The family, according to Pareja, wanted to escape Italy’s socioeconomic turmoil but settled in a new country fighting an even bigger issue.

The deterioration of the characters is also reflected in the costume. One character, Maria, undergoes six as her ethics unravel.

“I just would like the audience to notice that deterioration of the costumes. Look at the colors. Look at the actual distressing of the costumes. [Marta’s] costumes indicate something about her that is never explicitly mentioned out loud,” the third-year BFA candidate said.

By the end of Act Two, the characters are doing very strange things; Alonso uses that distortion of reality to create the scene as a backdrop.

“If you really look into La Boca, there’s a lot of violence in it. It’s not the greatest city in the world, as you would depict it to be because it’s so colorful and so bright,” Alonso said. “It’s a great touristy place, but it’s actually kind of dark, in a sense. So we played a lot with the distortion of reality and things falling apart, things not being the way that they appear to be.”

The senior BFA candidate said that the single-unit set doesn’t change much, but the lighting changes really bring the visual metaphor of deterioration home for audiences.

“With the different colors amplifying the set, as those start to disappear, you start to see the imperfections within the set both intentional and unintentional,” Alonso said.

The show, which Pareja describes as a tragic comedy, will play until Oct. 3 in the Black Box Theatre, which Alonso says will add something special to the show.

“The comedy and tragedy are so close together. I think that’s one of the great things about this show; you have all these great emotions mixed in, in one play,” said Pareja.

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