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A CurtainUp Review
All the Law Allows (Con todas de la ley)
by David Lipfert
Jairo Camargo & Amparo Conde (Photo: courtesyRepertorio Español )

Doctor Urbano Guarniz Arteta has a problem. Or rather four problems, and they are all female in nature. Now at the sunset of his life, he is still in crisis because he has never learned from his experiences.

He shouldn't complain, because he has led a full life. Aside from some fun with the ladies, he claims to have shaken the hands of two Popes and the Queen of England. How could a lowly secretary refuse him? The venerable Repertorio Español theater opens its 35th season with a comedy from Colombia, Con todas de la ley, which roughly translates as All the Law Allows. It has allowed the Doctor plenty. But for the most part it has been an illusion. You see the guy (ably played by Jairo Camargo) just can't help projecting his hopes and desires onto the women he meets.

Amparo Conde plays the four beauties (surely there were many more) that appear at critical moments in the Doctor's life. Etelvina robs him of his trusting innocence as a schoolboy. María Beatriz underlines his social unworthiness and assaults his pride. Club dancer Candelita excites his basest passions but leaves him high and dry. Finally his secretary Doris Lucia walks out on the Doctor, who believes her to be wildly in love with him. It's a comical recipe for disaster. But the Doctor insists, and just about gets his way before the dream bubble bursts. Comedy usually comes with a lesson, and the one here is that we should do a reality check on our illusions before we fall down, figuratively or literally like the Doctor.

Prolific Columbian author Chucho González presents a laughable protagonist in the Doctor. Those whose Spanish is not up to colloquial par will miss the fast-paced mix of double entendres and quips, because this is one of the rare productions at Gramercy Arts Theatre that doesn't have simultaneous English translation. In the sequence of scenes involving the Doctor and each of his ladies, González as director concentrates the onstage action, which is further reined in by Humberto Hernández's lighting. Camila Meuci has organized costumes and costume elements to individualize the women and mark the Doctor's life stages.

Camargo mines his role for all its comic possibilities. It's clear why he is one of Columbia's most popular actors. His style is concentrated and specific. His cohort Conde instead has a broader approach. As a foil she is effective, but González has favored realism over the exaggeration that could best balance Camargo.

Con todas de la ley is part of an ongoing series of Columbian works at It plays through the end of September.

All the Law Allows (Con todas de la ley)
by Chucho González
Direction: Chucho González, Jairo Camargo
with Jairo Camargo, Amparo Conde
Lighting: Humberto Hernández
Asst. Director: Victoria Gómez
Set/Props: Alvaro Carrizoza
Costume design: Camila Meuci
Makeup: Yolanda Lizarazo
Music: Ignacio Rodriguez
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes with no intermission
Gramercy Arts Theatre, 138 East 27th Street 212/ 889-2850
9/4/02 - 9/29/02
Various days and times; $40-15
Reviewed by David Lipfert based on 9/4/02 performance
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