"Saverio," the current production of the Gala Hispanic Theatre, is reminiscent of "Marat/Sade." The theater is an insane asylum, and the actors wiggle and smirk to show us how mad their characters are.
As in "Marat/Sade," the inmates present a play within a play. In "Saverio," however, there is no audience within the play; the inmates are performing for themselves. They take a gleeful pleasure in impersonating the ruling forces of their society, and they select a shy newcomer, Saverio, to play the role of El Presidente.
Saverio is thrust reluctantly into the spotlight, but his compatriots mock him behind his back even as he assumes power. Finally the inmates lose control to an extent beyond the imagining of the inmates of Charenton in "Marat/Sade." Dialectic argument is replaced by violence, and Saverio's fate is one that eventually comes to many a tinhorn dictator.
The final image is chilling indeed, and it was made even more so on opening night. As the inmates brooded high over Saverio's body, real thunder rumbled outside. Marcel Bouquet, playing opposite Saverio as the scheming, sinuous leader of the inmates, looked skyward with an ominous frown. It was a stunning moment.
Getting there was not quite as stunning. The play, inspired by a 1936 work by Argentinian Roberto Arlt and adapted by director Gabriel Garcia for the Galaxy Theatre in Boston, has a few problems in its English translation. And it dallies too long over the anguish of Susanna, a pretty young inmate who is selected to tease Saverio.
This part of the play was not helped by the sign lines in All Souls' Church, where the play is being presented in English through Sunday and in Spanish on Thursdays through Sundays from July 27 through Aug. 5.
For one entire scene, the actress playing Susanna was blocked from the view of nearly everyone except those in the front row. The production uses no scenery other than the church pulpit, one wagon which effectively zips up and down the center aisle, and some drapery that would have pleased Kobo Abe. While a certain degree of starkness is proper for an asylum, an extra platform would have let more of the audience see the play.
Raul Rizik strikes precisely the right notes as Saverio, a hapless loser whose primary social deviance seems to be an obsession with his butter business. The acoustics of All Souls' Church are not the best, but the bitter voices of the troupe create some entrancing sounds.