Off-Broadway Review: Ice Factory Festival’s “Fernando” at New Ohio Theatre

Off-Broadway Review: Ice Factory Festival’s “Fernando” at New Ohio Theatre (Closed Saturday July 1, 2017)
Written by Steven Haworth
Directed by Jamie Richards
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Jamie Richards deftly directs Steven Haworth’s intriguing psychosexual farce “Fernando” at the Ice Factory Festival at New Ohio Theatre. Mr. Haworth has written an engaging story about Zachariah Smythe (Christian Durso) an art scholar who has come to a museum in Madrid to continue his research on the Spanish painter Fernando Rafael Vasquez de la Cruz. The museum’s curator Terese Flores (Vivia Font) reminds Zach that Fernando stopped painting at sixty years old, disappeared, and has been missing for three years. Undeterred, Zach is determined to prove Fernando’s greatness claiming the missing artist “belongs in the company of Miró, Tàpies, and Dalí.

Teresa discovers assistant professor Zach needs to publish an article to remain in his teaching position and uses this information to begin to mercilessly impugn his motivations and his reputation. However, all of this is a ruse to seduce Zach into Teresa’s web of deceit and desire for revenge against Fernando who, Zach discovers, was Teresa’s “secret lover.” In a complicated and ingenious cat-and-mouse game of intrigue – and in a story wherein Teresa’s love affair with Fernando parallels her love affair with Zach – the playwright teases the audience to wonder what might come next as a mysterious blind man appears claiming to be a friend of Fernando’s and Fernando himself crawls out of the woodwork threatening (as the bind man) to murder Zach if Zach does not return to America for finish his project.

Vivia Font and Christian Durso deliver authentic performances as Teresa and Zach. Both actors reveal the underbellies of their characters with skill and rapid-fire dialogue. Chris Ceraso gives both the blind man and the “returned-from-the-dead” Fernando charming comedic qualities and lighten the play’s overall dramatic mood. Someone’s throat gets slit, several shots are fired from Fernando’s gun – one or two apparently deadly. Yet, in the end, no one is among the dead and Teresa gets to be “in love with yet another madman.”

Maiko Chii’s set design, Anna Grigo’s costume design, Greg MacPherson’s lighting design, and Benjamin Furiga’s sound design all serve successfully to heighten the play’s mysterious mood. Although Mr. Haworth’s ending seems truncated and a bit less than satisfying, the overall play is brilliantly conceived, directed, and acted and makes a successful beginning to one of the Summer’s important theatre festivals.