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Questions of fate in ‘Sueno’

Calderon's classic tells the story of a Spanish king who imprisons his infant son, in fear of what the prophecies predicted the prince's future to hold. To save Spain from civil war, and to protect himself from patricide, King Basilio condemns his son to isolation and tries to avoid the rise and reign of who the prophets say will be a monster.

But the king begins to question his blind faith in prophecies, wondering if he had ruined the prince's chances to prove the astrologers wrong. He decides to crown his son "Segismundo" for a day to see if the experiment could "challenge the stars" and if his son could really mature into an enlightened leader.

The performers, QCC students enrolled in the Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts, offer heartfelt and passionate interpretations of the play's characters, and are most poignant during dramatic monologues and emotional insights. The actors are able to combine exhausting revelations with humor and wit. Questions of fate and predestination are addressed deeply, but not without the occasional flare of light-hearted comedy.

Byron Castaneda as the imprisoned prince gives an especially dynamic performance, showing how the prince is unable to understand what crime he has committed by mere birth, and what has made him such a contaminant to the world.

When he is freed from "the box that is his crib and his grave," Segismundo struggles with his power, wondering how one deprived of human love could ever grow to be a humane ruler. Castaneda captures the inner torture of the prince, conveying his passions of hurt, confusion and revenge.

King Basilio, played by Gary Gonzalez, experiences feelings of guilt and loss of faith as he questions the decisions that he made for his son. In a moving monologue, Gonzalez as the king struggles to reconcile the finality of the stars with the variable of individual choice. He wonders if the "secrets of the universe" written nightly in the stars can be altered once one assumes the power to try. Gonzalez is able to reveal the weakness of the King, and his gradual triumph in understanding his power.

Michael Alonso as Clotaldo and Kristina Lomboy as Rosaura represent Segismundo's most significant influences. Alonso plays the prince's "silent diary," an official of the king who tries to teach the prince about life, religion and humanity. the character is played with a sense of honor and dignity, as though he were the conscience of the kingdom. But Alonso, creating a character of humility and self-control throughout, surprises the audience at the end as he reveals a tale of a run-in with temptation.

Lomboy provides a contrast to the royal heiress Estrella, played by Cynthia Olortegui. Lomboy presents "Miss Rosaura" as a strong woman seeking revenge on a Polish duke, but finding herself in love with the Spanish prince.

Disguising herself as a poor male wanderer, Estrella eventually reveals her identity and in a humorous scene, interferes with the duke's plans to claim the throne. Lomboy is especially powerful near the play's conclusion, when she pleads with Segismundo to help her with her plans.

Howard Collado as Clarin and Brian Russell as Astolfo offer witty comedic relief. Clarin, Estrella's companion, gives us clever observations of the other characters, and is not afraid to admit his own cowardice. Collado plays the role with humorous exaggeration and amusing commentary.

Astolfo, the Polish duke, elicits the most laughs as he bumbles through a courtship of his cousin, Estrella," trying to win her heart by calling her "more industrious than ants of the Amazon."

Performances of "Sueno" continue at Queensborough Community College at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, and Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov. 11, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. The 2 p.m. show will be followed by a panel discussion on Calderon's work.

Tickets are available at the QCC box office, 718- 631-6311, in advance, or at the door beginning one hour before the performance. General admission is $8; seniors and performing arts subscribers pay $5. For more information, call 718- 631-6284.

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