The image of a young muscle bound man in khaki shorts conversing with a gentleman in a powdered wig is one that cannot help but draw attention. The young man's arms open widely, his over-sized hands clench into fists, as his face contorts in a combination of frustration, fatigue, and understanding. At last his eyes open as his hands come together and he leans in to deliver the vital piece of direction that the moment calls for:
This play requires a quiet intensity…
After a lingering moment to make sure the statement registered properly for the performer, director Carlos Saldana returns to his seat, crosses his arms, and smiles encouragingly, “Let’s do it again.” Beneath his powdered wig Sean Cromwell smiles knowingly as Abe Jallad, the other actor in the scene, chuckles. The vague, seemingly oxymoronic phrase has hit home for both of them.
Legendary director and critic Harold Clurman once proclaimed that, “Casting is the first step of the interpretive process.” For Saldana the vital quality he seeks in casting is clear. Above any notion of necessary physicality or comforting experience, he searches for an ingredient virtually unfamiliar in far too many contemporary performances: brutal, unrepentant, unrelenting truth.
His call for truth was powerfully purveyed in his production of Naomi Wallace’s One Flea Spare and he hopes to do the same again with another small and dedicated ensemble with Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie. The venue is larger and the material more publicly familiar, leading to some practical challenges that must be overcome, but Saldana’s demand for honest exploration will undoubtedly again be the production’s centerpiece. The dream-like power of Tennessee’s masterpiece is in line for a quietly intense interpretation.
(Saldana’s production of The Glass Menagerie will open October 9th at UTEP’s Wise Family Theatre. For information call 915-747-5118.)