The title of the play Teresa’s Ecstasy is a bit misleading in that it refers to the religious experiences of Teresa of Avila, a 16th-century saint and mystic who lived during the Spanish Inquisition. The production sheds very little light on Teresa’s life or insights. Instead, it dabbles with too many other weighty topics—love, nationalism, politics, art and the role of organized religion, to name just a few—and none are explored adequately.
Carlotta (Begonya Plaza), an American writer who has been inspired by Saint Teresa’s life, has come to Barcelona to serve her husband, Andres (Shawn Elliott), with divorce papers while conducting research for a magazine article she is writing about the saint. Joining Carlotta on her trip of spiritual self-discovery is Becky (Linda Larkin), her Jewish publisher.
The action is centered in Andres’s home/studio, which is a comfortable, airy loft. During much of the first act, he and Carlotta prepare a gazpacho from scratch to eat with a large ham that has already been prepared. While one can assume this meal was intended to showcase the beauty of Spanish cuisine, the food preparation and meal become distracting to watch and create some awkwardly slow pacing and transitions.
Elliott is a standout in this capable three-person ensemble. As a macho, anti-establishment Spanish artist, Andres is the only fully fleshed-out character, and Elliott skillfully conveys Andres’s charm, despite his often-crass comments. He still loves his wife deeply, although Carlotta’s feelings toward him are unclear. He takes an instant dislike to Becky and her “American air of entitlement.” Unfortunately, Plaza’s script is the problem throughout: It lacks focus, hindering all three actors’ performances. The heavy-handed dialogue, especially when Carlotta expounds on the life of Teresa, often feels preachy and stilted.
Theatergoers who are expecting to learn more than random facts about the life of a prominent Spanish mystic, and her experience of religious ecstasy, are sure to be disappointed. Like a potluck dinner with too many ingredients that don’t blend together well, Teresa’s Ecstasy is an overambitious jumble that leaves one unsatisfied.
Teresa’s Ecstasy; Written by Begonya Plaza; Directed by Will Pomerantz; Cherry Lane Theatre; 38 Commerce Street ; 212-352-3101