Noel Coward set to a tangoby Peter Filichia/The Star-Ledger Thursday May 14, 2009, 1:15 PMLIZ OLSONKJ Sanchez, associate artistic director the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, has taken the
quintessentially British play -- Noel Coward's "Private Lives" -- and reset it in Argentina.
Where: Two River Theater Company, 21 Bridge Ave., Red Bank.
When: Through May 31.
Tuesdays; 1 and 8 p.m.
Wednesdays; 8 p.m.
Thursdays-Fridays; 3 and 8 p.m.
Saturdays; 3 p.m.
How much: $34-$58.
Call (732) 345-1400 or visit trtc.org.
It's a cliche, and KJ Sanchez knows it.
"There's an old South American saying that goes, 'Argentinians are Spaniards who act like Italians, dress like they're French and think they're British,'" she says with a laugh.
Sanchez, associate artistic director the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, at least agrees with the last part of the statement.
That's why she's taken the quintessentially British play -- Noel Coward's "Private Lives" -- and reset it in Argentina.
"Because of the feeling Argentineans have for the British, such names as Amanda, Elyot, Victor and Sybil aren't unknown in that country," she says.
While Coward originally had Amanda and new husband Victor -- and Elyot and new wife Sybil -- Londoners who were honeymooning in Paris, Sanchez made all four residents of Buenos Aires.
They're now spending the first married nights in Mar Del Plata, on the Argentine coast.
What hasn't changed is that the couples meet each other on their second honeymoons, which causes chaos, for Amanda and Elyot were once married.
"We haven't cut a single line, and I've only changed the names of the places involved," Sanchez says.
"I don't think Noel Coward is rolling around in his grave, but instead is doing a little tango." Even if he isn't, Sheila Tapia and Triney Sandoval, who play Amanda and Elyot, will tango.
Coward wrote a waltz as "their song," and one to which they danced in the second act.
"Instead, I'm using 'Por Una Cabeza,' a big hit that was co-written composed and sung by Carlos Gardel, an Argentinean superstar around that time," Sanchez says.
Sanchez says the song and the tango are a good match for Amanda and Elyot.
"Tango is all about how you're responding to your partner in the moment," she says.
"It can be seductive, cruel, ferocious, mean, aggressive, but it can also be soft, gentle, and loving, too.
So it goes all through the spectrum of colors that Amanda and Elyot do.
The play is all about chemistry, and that's what the tango is.
You can know the steps, but if you don't have the right chemistry, it doesn't work.
But if you have the right chemistry, there's no telling what you'll be able to do." Granted, Sanchez knows the big risk in resetting the play in Argentina.
"Because Amanda and Elyot have many knock-down, drag out fights, there's that other cliche -- the one about the 'crazy Latinos.' We've been very careful in rehearsal not to cross the line and make the whole thing cartoonish." Even that possible liability couldn't stop Sanchez from resetting the play once the idea occurred to her last year.
"During my acting days, I played Sybil, and people came up and said, 'You? It needs someone British.' I'd answer, 'Well, plenty of Americans have done "Private Lives," haven't they? And I'm American.'" Sanchez was born in rural New Mexico, the 12th of 12 children.
"My parents were just so bored by that point," she says.
"There are no prom pictures of me, or anything like that.
I was on my own a lot, and that was good training to becoming a director -- though I had planned to be a physical therapist," she says with a laugh.
"Thanks to a fellowship for Hispanic students, I got to UC-San Diego," she says.
"It was only there that I happened to discover theater.
And I'm so glad I did."