THE HEART’S ‘SECRET CHAMBERS’

8 Sep

house

ALLENDE NOVEL ‘LIVES’ AT MAIN STREET THEATRE

By JOHN DeMERS

Maybe, just maybe – based on her vision of how the past works within the present in extremely mysterious ways – Isabel Allende should have been a playwright instead of an award-winning novelist. There’d be no question she’d have come out much like Tennessee Williams mixed with Eugene O’Neill, except for being a woman with a Latin accent, of course. 

“It is very strange to write one’s biography because it is just a list of dates, events and achievements,” Allende observes. “In reality the most important things about my life happened in the secret chambers of my heart and have no place in a biography. My most significant achievements are not my books, but the love I share with a few people, especially my family, and the ways in which I have tried to help others. When I was young, I often felt desperate: so much pain in the world and so little I could do to alleviate it! But now I look back at my life and feel satisfied because few days went by without at least trying.” 

Starting this week, with the season opener at Houston’s Main Street Theatre, we get to read one of Allende’s best-known novels without slipping on our reading glasses. The company launches its 34th year with the English-language premiere of Caridad Svich’s The House of the Spirits, based on the best-selling novel. The House of the Spirits opens this Thursday and runs through Oct. 11 at Main Street Theater – Rice Village, 2540 Times Blvd. 

Svich’s adaptation of Allende’s stunning novel was commissioned for NYC’s Repertorio Espanol, where the Spanish-language version is currently on stage there through November. The play is told from the point of view of the youngest of three generations of women, Alba, whose swirling memories – frightening and amusing, lyrical and fantastic – illuminate the stage as she records her family’s history and ultimately finds the strength to recover her own story. MST’s production will be the English-language premiere of this play, which critics call “a tumultuous and supernatural family saga that restores the story’s vibrant magical realism.” 

The House of the Spirits charts the rise and fall of the Trueba family in an un-named Latin American country that’s reminiscent of Alldende’s native Chile. The piece spans the 1920s through the 1970s, as the country moves through enormous sociopolitical changes that culminate in a devastating dictatorship. Author Allende said of the production at Repertorio Espanol: “It was a true celebration to watch the show…it’s extraordinary because it is presented with immense creativity and originality. The novel’s spirit was replicated in the play. It’s very authentic.” 

Just this summer The House of the Spirits/La Casa de los Espiritus and its production at Repertorio Espanol have been honored with Seven 2009 HOLA Awards including Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting for Caridad Svich. Main Street says it’s honored to be able to offer the English-language premiere while the Spanish-language premiere is still running. MST’s production also marks the Houston premiere of any of Svich’s works. 

Coming off of her hit run of Awake and Sing! at MST, Luisa-Amaral Smith returns for House.  The rest of the cast includes Orlando Arriaga, Eva De La Cruz, Alexander Garza, Séan Patrick Judge, Chelsea Ryan McCurdy (Ps and Qs), Rosarito Rodríguez, Laura Michelle Salas, and Richard Solis (Anna in the Tropics). Tickets range from $20 – $36, depending on date and section, and are on sale in person at the Main Street Theater Box Office, 2540 Times Blvd., via phone at 713.524.6706, or online at http://www.mainstreettheater.com.

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