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Cloaked, by Ricardo Melendez

Monday, 9 May, 2011

Neo-Shakespearean drama about gender

Dublin Gay Theatre Festival 2011 – Back Loft, La Catedral Studios, 7-11 St Augustine Street, Dublin 8 – May 2-7 – 8pm (70 minutes – May 2 & 7 at 2.30pm also) – show seen May 6

This costume drama is set in a Renaissance milieu in an unspecified European country and phrased in beautiful Shakespearean language – but explores themes that were very much forbidden at that time.

Queen Sofia is actually a man pretending to be a woman, because of a decision his now-dead mother made to protect him as a baby, from rebels intent on killing a male heir.

Not only that, he is gay, which allows him to have a secret romance with courtier Alonso, who is unaware of his Queen’s true nature, as she only ever allows him to have anal sex.  To complicate matters further, a religious fanatic (Orozco) is intent on burning any gay members of the nobility at the stake.  The subterfuge in which Sofia has to engage is eating her inside and the play is about how she resolves this conflict.

The language used is similar to that of Shakespeare’s period and is almost as colourful and elegant as that of the Bard himself, while remaining completely comprehensible to the modern listener.  When the fantastically lavish costumes are added, the overall sensory effect is an unremittingly delightful experience.

Melendez’s acting is as flawless as his writing and he could almost have carried off the play as a one-man show.  While the moral message of the play could be seen as slightly heavy-handed, the elegance of its presentation means that any such stridency is barely noticeable.

Cast Credits:  Queen Sofia – Ricardo Melendez; Lord Orozco / Alonso – CJ Vogt; Lord Giacomo / Francesco – Patrick Marlett.

Company Credits: Director – Steve Earle; Writer – Ricardo Melendez; Inspired by – Franciso Ors’ CONTRADANZA.

© Colman Higgins 2011

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