Audiences were, once again, on the edge of their seats when Dalhousie University’s Fountain School of Performing Arts (FSPA) staged their first in-person show since closing in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dog in the Manger ran from Oct. 12 to Oct. 16 at the Sir James Dunn Theatre on Studley Campus. The play, originally written in Spanish by Lope de Vega, is about Countess Diana, played by Marianne Labrie, who is consumed by love for one of her servants.
The Dog in the Manger grapples with a love triangle between servants and royalty. Diana refuses to marry both Marquis Ricardo, played by Colin Wentzell, and Count Federico, played by Kegan Macivor, because she is in love with her secretary, Teodoro, played by Simon Mekers. All performers in the show were fourth-year students.
Diana’s status as the Countess of Belflor prevents her from confessing her love for her servant as to not defame her honour. Because of this, Diana is wrecked by jealousy at the sight of her servant Marcela, played by Madison Kendall, who holds Teodoro’s heart.
To be a “dog in the manger” is to keep others from things you have no intention of using and, like the title suggests, although Diana has no intention to marry Teodoro, she does everything in her power to keep him and Marcela apart. Diana leaves Teodoro guessing whether he has the chance to pursue the countess’s love, which will only damage his relationship with Marcela.
The play takes audiences through a series of plot twists that keep the play unpredictable, but also create a storyline that is at times confusing and hard to follow. However, director Roberta Barker, an associate professor at the FSPA, does an excellent job keeping audiences engaged by avoiding blackouts – turning the lights off between scenes – throughout the entire show.
The play grabs its audience’s attention in the opening scene, with an upbeat song that foreshadows the unfolding events, paired with blocking – the staging of actors – that keeps the characters moving quickly across the stage.
At the beginning of act two, the director captivates the audience with a scene where Diana’s potential suiters call upon Teodoro’s beloved servant and companion, Tristan, played by Oliver Blais, to kill Teodoro.
Throughout the entire show, each actor showed a profound knowledge of the play and demonstrated their skills in bringing their characters to life in a unique way.
Dal’s production of the Spanish play paints Teodoro as the helpless victim and draws sympathy from the audience as his story progresses. What the play fails to show is that the real victim in this story is actually Marcela. She has her heart broken more than once with no remorse from Teodoro or Diana.
Dal’s excellent and captivating production of The Dog in the Manger demonstrates the school has future talents in both its cast and its crew.