Like any Stanislavsky Theater Studio production, The Shoemaker’s Remarkable Wife has its share of visual knockouts. A butterfly—really, a hankie tied to a stick, waved aloft by a black-veiled dancer—flutters around at a climactic first-half moment; it spoils the rhythm, such as it is, of the plot, but Colin Bills’ lighting makes it a pretty thing to behold. Even better, and more relevant to the plot, is the part during the second-half tambourine-puppet show in which a fistful of roses is flung to the green floor; the thwack with which they stick there, upright, reveals that their stems are capped off with darts. These images represent the polarities of Scott Fielding’s adaptation of the Federico García Lorca script: Sometimes it’s a surrealistic satire of love fables—more thorn than rose—but mostly it’s just a lot of flitting around about nothing. It begins inauspiciously, with actors escaping from Jessica Wade’s minimalist, curtainless set to chat with the audience, in and out of character. At the press performance, several people asked Tiffany Givens, aka the Purple Neighbor, why her face, and many of the other actors’, had a line down the middle and exaggerated paint on only one side; she said the makeup job represented the character and the actor behind the character. Fair enough, but the symbolism doesn’t bear out. Some are painted on the left side, some on the right (paging Gene Roddenberry!)—and why is John Tweel’s Shoemaker seemingly devoid of makeup? It might suggest that he be seen as the Everyman hero of this tale of an aging first-time husband and his overbearing young wife (the latter role played by Ratja Telcs and Sara Barker in a sort of Madonna/whore tag team). But though the villagers screech and hiss about the wife’s bitch-slut-from-hell ways, we end up feeling, if not exactly sympathetic toward her, at least contemptuous of her wimpy spouse and vaguely proud of her feisty spirit. The production is playful, from the bridesmaid-gone-wrong dresses Melanie Dale foists on Givens and her fellow village harpies, to the soundbite of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy” when the Hat Youth (Ali Zaghari) struts the stage, to the yowling mating songs between the wife at her window and the band of serenading swains below. But though the leads (particularly the toothsome Telcs) put their all into the production, many of the supporting players just freeform-emote like British panto players—apparently as unsure of the point of this trifle as we are.
—Pamela Murray Winters