Theater: “Spain” at Second Stage
Jen Silverman’s new play “Spain” has an interesting premise: propaganda masquerading as art. Joris (Andrew Burnap from “Camelot” and “The Inheritance”) is a filmmaker who in 1936 is given the chance to make a big-budget, pro-Republican documentary about the Spanish Civil War—but only if he accepts financing from the Soviet Union.
Entitled “The Noble Peasant Crushed by the Rich Peasant,” Joris envisions a script co-written by Ernest Hemingway (Danny Wolohan) and John Dos Passos (Erik Lochtefeld), which would change hearts and minds and end American neutrality in the war. The film “The Spanish Earth” was actually made in 1937.
Unfortunately, this revelation, and the play’s premise, are buried in a production that lands like a super-sized enchilada at Second Stage. Burnap plays Joris as if he were a naive Upper East Sider fresh from a gin-and-tonic at the Union Club. Lochtefeld’s John Dos Passos comes off as a cranky, get-off-my-lawn grandpa. A fictional character, Helen, has been added, a part that is usually played by the great Marin Ireland who was ill and sorely missed at our performance. The only cheap laughs come from Wolohan’s over-the-top performance as a buffoonish Ernest Hemingway.
To its credit, the surprise ending makes a very good point about propaganda continuing to serve its Russian masters (election interference, anyone?) but by then you are too bored to care. Overall, a lost opportunity to tell an interesting story and change hearts and minds—least of all mine.
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