At The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland's New Theatre the world premiere performance of Nilo Cruz's "Lorca in a Green Dress" is an intriguing play covering the areas of life and death, such as what comes next against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Under the direction of Penny Metropulos the play takes on added significance with the state of the world in 2003 and the rise of the neo-cons in the US. William Bloodgood's single set bears an uncanny resemblance to the Spanish Civil War Memorial, although by all reports, it's an unintended one. The play covers the crossover to death of the Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca after his murder by the fascists in 1936.

The play opens with Lorca lying on the floor. Five black robed figures enter. He stands up, covered in blood with three gunshot wounds. When he asks who they are, each lifts his veil and proclaims "I'm Frederico Garcia Lorca." They say that they are the higher agents of his being. When asked how he got there they respond that he was brought by gypsies on a green horse, in a green wind. He doesn't believe he's dead, so his death is reenacted for him. He's driven out to a road in a truck and forced to get out. The lights shine on him, and when he's told to turn around he's shot. The soldier who shot him said "we shot him right in the ass, the way you shoot a communist faggot." One bullet pierced the lung, two pierced the buttocks area. Lorca vehemently denies being a communist, saying only, "I am a poet."

According to certain Muslim and gypsy sects, after a person dies, he's given a dream body for forty days to meditate on life and death, and to adjust. Lorca is not having an easy time with the adjustment. He does not think he's dead, but decides it's a joke being played by his friend, the painter Salvador Dali, who always sees things on different planes. A scroll is rolled down from the balcony at the side with a list of "The Symptoms of Death." The first says "Momentary relapses of life are to be expected." Lorca has a hard time accepting it at all. Ray Porter's the General is a commander who's loud and authoritative; a definite military commander, who's running the show. He orders the players to perform skits of various aspects of Lorca's life. Lorca thinks he's dreaming and we're told that "not dying is not the same as being alive."

This play exists on several planes of reality. The character of Lorca In Bicycle Pants represents his childhood, and he's in charge of dreams, because he dreamed most when he was a boy. The stage is bathed in blood red light with the gypsy commentaries on the death of the poet. "The poet was Granada, the King of the Gypsies." The fascists don't like gypsies. They killed the poet because of a line in the poem "City of the Gypsies." They are the true spirit of the country.

The political positions of Lorca are examined in Lorca in Court. He's represented by Lorca In A White Suit. He says "I'm for the people. I never belonged to a political party." The Judges are in the tall hoods of the Spanish Inquisition. He was killed because he was accused of being a communist. He read, admired, and spoke of Chekov. He was also gay and a poet. People like Lorca can't exist in a fascist society.

The color green is repeated many times, in Lorca's work. It connotes decay, immaturity, and unripeness. It can refer to the olive skin of the Andalusians, and out of the country's Islamic past, the Green Turban of the Prophet. In Romance Sonambulo green means a desire so full and so strong that it almost drives itself through the repetitious incantations of green wind, green branches, green hair, green flesh. Color mapped the contours of the world he depicted in words. The stage is lit in green as his father rises through a trap door with a piano, and the rest of the family assembles around him.

Lorca In A Green Dress explains that they are actors on a point system. They get points to move to a higher level, to ascend from this one, Lorca says like Purgatory. Lorca is on a faster track because he's a poet. That's why he gets his own room, where this all takes place. With all the killing going on in the world, they couldn't possibly have enough rooms for everyone. Poets revive life; when he writes he makes people see the world in a different way, so he ascends faster. Lorca curses the fascists, saying his pen was poison to them. When asked about Dali, he says if he ever came close to him it was to make love to his mind. He says Dali's sister was the one woman he could have loved.

A flamenco dancer drives much of the action. She stands at the left end of the stage, and to begin the second part she's bathed in blood red. She's accompanied by singing, and it's happy in a disjointed sort of way. Lorca As A Woman says we are sculptors of desire. The fragmentation of this society and political fragmentation is similar to today with the rise of the neo-cons and the attitude of you're either with us or against us. There's no middle ground. We're taken through "The poet in New York," Lorca is trying to escape. The gypsies said his verses were folkloric and stereotypical. The moon descends from the sky to console him. Love is in the thirst that tears the flesh.

Lorca breaks the quarantine to return to life and wander as a ghost. The dreamer dreams the world, and life is that dream. How can he live in a war-torn country, among the killers? He sees his mother, but can't be seen. When he speaks to her, she doesn't hear. This is repeated with his whole family as they light candles for him at the altar. The flamenco dancer faces them. She's very strident. A man on the balcony keeps time with a cane. He remembers what he left behind.

The dancer is in a green robe. They reenact his death again. Lorca lies on the floor bathed in green light. When asked if he's prepared to ascend to another world, he says he wants nothing. No desires? One; the color green. That's a physical desire? No, it's the face of God. Granted. I wish to enter the dreams of my sister, brother, mother, father. It is granted. Entering the vagueries of dreams; now enter the river. Here images take the form of dreams. He walks in front of the truck. Five symmetrical moons light the stage as Lorca finally accepts death and transcends the world in the world premiere performance of Nilo Cruz's "Lorca in a Green Dress" at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland's New Theatre. It continues through November 2.


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