Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's recent review of Ink
Audience members are greeted by Jason Sherwood's massive scenic tableau: the stage floor covered in white flowers and, floating above, Eva Perón's iconic white inauguration gown. As a crowd gathers for Eva's funeral–the public, the military, the church–and the embittered Che (Omar Lopez-Cepero) provides sarcastic commentary downstage, the woman herself (Shereen Pimentel) appears, trying to make sense of the occasion.
Cannold has organized a company whose members easily navigate the varying styles of the score by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics, and also book), centering on Pimentel's epic and multifaceted performance.
While the role of Eva is known for its bruising high belt in numbers like "A New Argentina," Pimentel uses her voice in numerous ways to match how her character tries out varying roles depending on the situation. She sings in a sweet, high register as the seemingly naïve 15-year-old Eva, who seizes her chance for a new start with visiting tango singer Magaldi (Gabriel Burrafato, amusingly oily) and turns out to be more than he expects. After her arrival in Buenos Aires and help from many powerful men, she sometimes overplays her hand before finding a suitable partner in military leader Juan Perón (a commanding performance by Caesar Samayoa). Costume designer Alejo Vietti subtly enhances Eva's almost holy appeal to the public by never dressing her in any color but white.
In Lopez-Cepero's portrayal, Che is powered by rage at Perón's (and Eva's) abuse of the Argentine people, but he also has moments of bemused admiration for her unlikely successes. The other striking performance is Naomi Serrano as Perón's (very young) discarded mistress, who seems to consider Eva's path to upward mobility during "Another Suitcase in Another Hall."
Choreographers Emily Maltby and Valeria Solomonoff use the open space to marshal the ensemble in staged crowds ("Buenos Aires"), the rigid groupings of socialites and soldiers in "Perón's Latest Flame," and the adoring masses giving their hearts to Eva during Juan's presidential campaign. The spirited orchestra, conducted by Mona Seyed-Bolorforosh, provides strong and almost continuous support.
Bradley King's lighting design illuminates the minimal set (pieces of furniture appear and vanish as needed, backed by several doorways in the rear wall) with neon lighting in intense tropical colors.
Evita runs through October 15, 2023, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.
In association with the American Repertory Theater