What People Have Said about The House of the Spirits

Selected critical and industry responses:
“Playwright Caridad Svich, working in uncommon unity with director Jose Zayas and a top creative team, makes what’s vivid on the page a starburst on the stage. Their efforts not only make the most harrowing aspects of Allende’s tale more palatable for us to watch, they help achieve a near-perfect balance of violence and visual poetry.” — John Moore, The Denver Post

“The power of Caridad Svich’s take on Isabel Allende’s celebrated novel lies in the accumulation of images, actions and passionate words that the play pours out into the audience, as well as the bitter sadness at its heart. … Svich and Allende link the personal and the political and show individual actions reaching forward through time, whether to damn or to save.” –Juliet Wittman, Westword

“Allende’s epic novel bursts forth in the circular Space Theatre of DCTC… Caridad Svich’s script delivers a series of relevant commentaries on the haves and have nots.” –Bob Bows, Variety (2010)

“This new adaptation is lean, stripped of subplots at just over half that length in the original Spanish. The context in which the novel was written, in exile from the Pinochet dictatorship that had killed Isabel’s uncle, Salvador Allende, is front and center in the form of Clara’s granddaughter Alba, who is raped in prison for supporting the socialist party. She never leaves the stage and frequently interacts with her ancestors, implicitly making the point that the military regime cannot be viewed in isolation from centuries of class warfare. So, the magic in this version is more than a diversion, it is an escape from reality. By making innovative use of video the play brings Clara’s diaries to life. A spectral hand writing across the set, when an earthquake strikes, a line drawing of the house shakes violently on an overhead projector. It’s surprisingly effective.” Andrew Purcell, BBC Radio (The Strand)

“A tumultuous and supernatural family saga that restores the story’s vibrant magical realism. Svich, who also wrote the play’s pretty songs, effectively condenses the saga.” Anita Gates, The New York Times

“[Critic’s Pick] Symbolism and magic realism take a back seat to human drama in Caridad Svich’s lyrical and satisfying adaptation of Allende’s novel. A movingly epic family drama.” Andy Propst, Backstage.com

“In unfolding the story as Alba’s flashback, Svich effectively nails the book’s central drama: the way Allende interrogates her family’s – and, by extension, Chile’s – bloody history through the brutal moral logic of Esteban Trueba’s eventful life. The story swells in urgency, and relevance.” Rob Weinert-Kendt, The Village Voice

“La Casa De Los Espiritus/The House of the Spirits was one of the most powerful productions I saw in New York this past year. On every level. The writing by Caridad Svich was exquisite. I never felt that I was watching an “adaptation”. It was pure theater, a story which felt like it could only exist on stage. The direction by Jose Zayas was both highly imaginative and emotionally “real”. In fact, it was one of those rare experiences in the theater where you felt that the collaboration between director, designers, actors, and writer was just…perfect for the piece. It was my first experience at Repertorio Espanol in many years and, if this is an example of the work they do, I want to see more.” Lisa Loomer, Playwright

“Like rain when it’s dry and ice cream in the summer – you can’t say no to the writing of Caridad Svich; you need it, you deserve it. Her mind is generous and nimble; she is capable of subtlety at the highest levels of refinement, and is also inexhaustibly cruel (ice cream is cold as well as sweet) – she is fearless, and will go to every limit in composing an experience. Her talents and perseverance make her a dreamy match for Allende; I can’t imagine a finer adaptor. She has construed a piece that is respectfully literary, while also affirming her own clear voice; the piece is fully theatrical, and Svich does much here to crack the classic problems of the epic on stage – the epic is for her much more than an accumulation of event – it is the risk of the infinite. Here characters and stories continually threaten to spiritualize, yet ultimately remain in their blood. One of our lead writers is writing at the peak of her form. House is a success, a gift.” Erik Ehn, playwright

“In the House of the Spirits, Svich has an almost uncanny ability to find the most resonant balance between the multiple layers of a story and a compact time frame. Her cross-cultural awareness and her fearlessness in the face of complicated interactions, both political and personal, put her at the forefront of important, new theatrical works. Whenever you come across Svich’s work for the theater, brace yourselves for a truly original and moving experience.” Naomi Wallace, playwright