In its energetic and dramatic final production of the 2016-17 season, the Trinity Repertory Company does not disappoint. While “Like Sheep to Water, or Fuente Ovejuna,” directed by Mark Valdez, tells the tale—based on actual events—of 1476 Spain, there are some eerie similarities to the present day evident throughout.
In the production, the small Spanish village of Fuente Ovejuna has fallen under the watch of a piggish commander while King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella focus on protecting the throne from the Portuguese king.
Fernán Gómez de Guzmán, the commander played by Fred Sullivan, Jr., behaves totally dictatorially as he forces himself onto the women of Fuente Ovejuna and orders around the villagers. His rude behavior toward the women of the village is tough to watch—he treats the women as though they’re his to do with whatever he pleases—and feels a bit similar to some of the noted behaviors of a certain American politician.
The subtle connections to current events are paralleled by some more obvious modern touches. For example, while the storyline takes place nearly six centuries ago, a cool, latin-style band that plays throughout the production offers a fresh twist and brings to the show a sort of chill vibe.
Cast members do a great job inspiring strong feelings for each of the main characters. While Sullivan knocks his portrayal of a selfish, power-hungry commander out of the park, some other actors make it easy to fall in love with them. Octavia Chavez-Richmond, who plays the lovely and sweet Laurencia, plays the role beautifully. Her horror at being kidnapped by Fernán Gómez de Guzmán on her wedding day and her subsequent sadness and determination when she’s returned—bruised and barely recognizable—is portrayed with a flawless intensity.
Meanwhile, it’s difficult not to fall for Laurencia’s love interest Frondoso, played by Orlando Hernandez, as she does. His wit, charm and smooth rhyming skills—as well as the bravery with which he stands up to the commander—is swoon-worthy.
Playing more subtle roles but inspiring just as many feelings, Stephen Berenson and Angela Brazil both ended their Trinity season on high notes. Berenson plays the dopey and lovable Mengo, for whom your heart breaks after the commander has his men whip his bare skin. And in another heartbreaking moment of the production, Jacinta—played by Brazil—is torn screaming from her family by the commander.
The play’s dramatic climax depicts the residents of Fuente Ovejuna rising up against their oppressor once they’ve finally had enough. The frustration and sheer anguish of the townsfolk is strongly felt, as each one grabs a pitchfork or a stick or whatever they can get their hands on to finally bring the commander’s tyrannical behavior to an end.
In the production’s final scene, audience members are pulled in—literally—in a moving, goosebump-inducing moment.
“Like Sheep to Water, or Fuente Ovejuna,” was a great choice of play to culminate the 2016-17 season. The large and energetic cast along with the subtle familiarities laced throughout are sure to leave audience members excited for Trinity Rep’s next season.
“Like Sheep to Water, or Fuente Ovejuna” runs through June 11 at Trinity Rep in Providence.