Trinity Repertory Company closes another triumphant season with its stylish, beautifully staged, well-acted production of "Fuente Ovejuna," Lope de Vega's historical drama about the united residents of a village under savage monarchal rule who risk everything to defeat their sadistic leader.
Directed by Mark Valdez, and translated and adapted by Curt Columbus, "Fuente Ovejuna" (which translates to "watering place of sheep") was written more than four centuries ago and takes place during the reign of King Ferdinand (Daniel Duque-Estrada) and Queen Isabella (Rachael Warren) of Spain. One of their Commanders, Fernan Gomez (Fred Sullivan, Jr.), arrives in the small town of Fuente Ovejuna and wreaks barbarous havoc, beating and imprisoning its men and raping the women.
When a smitten village youngster, Frondoso (Orlando Hernandez), thwarts the Commander's attempt to violate his beloved Laurencia (Octavia Chavez-Richmond) by threatening him with a crossbow, a riled Gomez disrupts their wedding, arrests the groom and enslaves the bride to pass around among his henchmen. An unrecognizable Laurencia eventually manages to escape and enlists her fellow citizens to join forces and rise up against the merciless Commander.
The tale of an egomaniacal sadist who abuses his authority is hardly an anomaly, nor is it an original premise, but this particular story has an especially endearing love story at its core. The evident fondness between Frondoso and Laurencia spreads throughout the members of their community, and it is precisely that loyalty and devotion to each other that enables them to overcome their oppressors.
Furthermore, the interplay is accompanied by live music from Jerediah "Big Scythe" Gonzalez (and Casey Belisle, Evan Carley, Jake Menendez) whose jazzy, upbeat score adds another exquisite layer to the production. The script also has its share of laughs that provide a welcome respite from the horrendous circumstances at hand.
As the adorable young couple, Chavez-Richmond's Laurencia is a bewitching bundle of fiery finesse, and Hernandez is irresistibly charming as her suitor, Frondoso. Joe Wilson, Jr. skillfully exhibits his trademark tenacity as Laurencia's father, Esteban, and Stephen Berenson unwittingly wins the heart and honor of the audience as the pained peasant, Mengo.
Sullivan's pointed performance as Gomez flawlessly conveys both the customary charisma and malevolence of a sociopath, whose wrath is extended by chilling portrayals from Timothy Crowe and Benjamin Grills as accomplices, Flores and Ortuño. In addition, Grills is equally impressive as Manrique, the king and queen's magistrate and the also doubly-cast Jonathan Olivera's performances (as Barrildo and Cimbranos) are both worthy of mention.
If the mere mention of politics gives you pause, the fruition and fate of Laurencia and Frondoso is a satisfying story on its own. Otherwise, "Fuente Ovejuna" boldly reminds us how essential community is to the foundation of our democracy and civilization.
"Fuente Ovejuna" runs thru June 11 at Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington Street in Providence. For information and tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com