It’s hasn’t been often over the years that so much fired-up emotion has hit the Red Deer College Studio A stage.
Powerful performances across the board fuel Red Deer College theatre studies’ season opener Fuente Ovejuna which runs through to Oct. 22.
Curtain is 7:30 p.m. There is also a weekend matinee Oct. 22 starting at 1 p.m.
Based on a true story and written by Felix de Vega, the story focuses on the Spanish village of Fuente Ovejuna (translated ‘the well where sheep drink’). A wicked military commander Fernan Gomez (Derick Neumeier) is making life increasingly miserable for the villagers, but as their community continues to fall apart the townspeople bravely choose to rally together and fight back.
Ultimately, they throw off any shred of hesitancy and reveal a stunning show of courage and unity. Let’s just say that Fernan Gomez is ‘taken care of’ and the villagers’ unified response to those who later investigate their fierce brand of justice is ‘Fuente Ovejuna did it’ — no one person is ever singled out.
Director Jeff Page has truly tapped into the mesmerizing heart of the production mainly via the outstanding performances of his cast.
Neumeier is terrific as Fernan Gomez, who is always looking for pretty much any way he can to inflict horror, fear and misery on an innocent villager’s life. He rapes, robs, kills and tortures and feels not a shred of guilt for his villainy. Neumeier energizes the role so completely making it a layered and rich performance, that it’s tough to think of how he could have made it any better.
Tucker New is also superb as Mengo, as are the feisty, passionate Laurencia (Tori Grebinski) and her husband-to-be Frondoso (Riley MacDonnell). The unfolding of their romance and union are also a critical part of the plot, and Grebinski in particular stands out in terms of the sheer emotional intensity she brings to the role.
The play takes place during the time of Queen Isabella (Chantelle Waschuk) and King Ferdinand (Adam Hynes) who play small but key roles in an attempt to bring justice to the town.
de Vega, who was a contemporary of Shakespeare, was certainly a gifted and prolific writer, having penned some 1,800 plays besides thousands of sonnets and several novels and epic poems. Fuente Ovejuna was first published in Madrid in 1619, and the events it was inspired by occurred in 1476. Translated by Richard Sanger, RDC’s production has also been effectively designed by Daniela Masellis.
Ultimately, the play’s strength is rooted in what the students bring to the stage. There’s really never a moment when things slow – even in the quieter scenes. Things clip along at a brisk pace and cast members work seamlessly in pushing along the compelling momentum. It’s the perfect vehicle – vivid, bold, intense and memorable — for kicking off what promises to be a first-rate season of performances at RDC.
Next up for the RDC theatre studies department is Toad of Toad Hall by Philip Goulding. Adapted from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, the production runs on the Arts Centre mainstage from Nov. 24-26 and Nov. 30 to Dec. 3. Curtain is 7:30 p.m.
There are also weekend matinees Nov. 26 and Dec. 3 at 1 p.m.
Tickets are available at the Black Knight Ticket Centre by calling 403-777-6626 or online at www.bkticketcentre.ca.