Performing Arts ~ The Hunchback of Seville at Trinity Rep ~ Providence

Trinity Repertory Company
201 Washington St.
Providence, Rhode Island
(401) 351-4242


People with any kind of literary background (e.g., they paid attention in high school English class) might expect The Hunchback of Seville to be a mash-up of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Barber of Seville.

Nope.

This is the story of an actual (fictional) woman, Maxima Teriblé Segunda, with an actual hunchback (they were still using 'hunchback' in 1504 Spain) who lives in enforced seclusion in actual Seville.

Hunchback is a farcical fictional retelling of the impending death of Queen Isabella of Castile (funder of Columbus, uniter of Spain, founder of the Inquisition), and the scramble to find a successor. Her daughter, Juana (an actual person in history known as Juana la Loca, or Joanna the Crazy), is clearly unfit to rule.

Most of the play takes place in Maxima's rooms, in a well-appointed set. The action moves into the aisles, and the fourth wall is thrown out the window, which clearly delighted the audience.

Racism, religion, and persecutions small and large were major themes throughout, peppered with plenty of laughs, as well as quite a few groaners. Things move quickly. The play is only 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Nicole Villamil plays Juana in a delightfully awful gigantic white and pink dress and frizzy, bedraggled blonde wig. She alternately talks baby-talk to her doll/prince, screams, canoodles audience members, and has moments of frightening lucidity. Just as her antics start to become irritating, she changes it up, a sign of some smart tactical directing.

Maxima is as intelligent and well-read as Juana is crazypants. So as Juana screams and/or sings in baby-talk to her doll about all the pretty gold, Maxima is learning the terrible cost that colonialism is inflicting on the natives of Hispañola. Who wants to be in charge of that? Other than Juana, of course. Maxima is wry, witty, and direct. She's played with arch inflection by Phyllis Kay.

There were good, solid performances all around, with a special nod to Jessica Ko, who was charming as Innocenzia, Maxima's sweet, simple new maid.

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