Why do people fall victim to temptation? Is human willpower so weak that giving in to evil is inevitable? If one believes that he or she will be judged at the end of their life, does it make it any easier to do the right thing? Leopold (Jacob Brogan ’05) of “Tango Palace” can tell you that believing in God may actually make it harder.
In this Pierson Sudler-funded project, producer Casey Miner ’05 and director Emma Hellman-Mass ’04 explore the concept of the human conscience. However, this show does not follow its script — by Maria Irene Fornes — exactly. It was Hellman-Mass’ idea to use two actors (Tommy Hobson ’04 and Tess Korobkin ’06) to play the role of Isidore, and appear on-stage simultaneously. Their chemistry is incredible. “Tango Palace” is infused with seduction, between the two Isidores and between each Isidore and Leopold separately, which complicates the plot. But the human mind is just that complicated, with its internal struggle of upholding personal values and combating earthly desires.
Leopold’s faith is constantly tested. Take, for example, the scene where the female Isidore tells him teasingly, “I’m a mountain, move me,” referring to the Biblical verse “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Amusingly, in that same scene, Leopold does succeed in “moving” her, not in the physical sense but in an emotional manner. In another part of the play, after Leopold is taunted for being too patient and good-natured, he responds, “I will not become rotten for you.” The audience will be interested in seeing whether he winds up sticking to this philosophy at the end.
The play is set in a living room, which is a gorgeous mixture of shades of red and burgundy fabric. The Isidores are dressed in black as Spanish bullfighters, Leopold is clothed in a flowing, ivory pajama-esque outfit. Immediately the stark contrast between Leopold’s appearance and that of the other two actors is apparent. The contrast is clearly representative of purity and evil, surrounded by a sea of red, suggesting hell and fiery temptation. Perhaps the setting is actually a replica of hell, in which case, “Tango Palace” deals with the same state of affairs as Satre’s “No Exit.” The set includes a locked door, and Leopold is denied the key.
Even if the plot is a bit off-center, the natural acting talent of the Hobson-Korobkin duo is entertaining all by itself. The audience even gets a taste of Hobson’s (a member of the a capella group Shades) stellar vocals. And Brogan personifies the initially unassuming and innocent character of Leopold nicely. All in all, “Tango Palace” is an impressive demonstration of Hellman-Mass and Miner’s talent and vision.