- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2004

Washington’s eclectic In Series opened its new production of “Neruda’s World: A Cabaret of Poetry and Song” over the weekend at the Mexican Cultural Institute on 16th Street NW. The program commemorates the 100th anniversary of the great Chilean poet’s birth.

Directed by Abel Lopez, “Neruda’s World” features a small cast of actor-singers, including Barbara Papendorp, Lorena Sabogal, Scott Sedar and Luis Simon. Mr. Simon, who portrayed the poet, bears an uncanny facial resemblance to Mr. Neruda. He was backed up by Mr. Sedar, who reinterpreted Mr. Neruda’s poetry in English with great understanding and feeling. The father-son duo of Ricardo and Luciano Diaz, along with In Series executive director and pianist Carla Huebner, provided the musical background, and Danilo Rivera interpreted some of the readings in dance.

Mr. Neruda’s real name was Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. In the 1920s, he began to write under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he had adopted in memory of Czech poet Jan Neruda, whose work he greatly admired. This was entirely in keeping with Mr. Neruda’s conception of himself as a citizen of the world. He had an active career as a writer, a politician and a diplomat representing Chile in countries as diverse as Burma, Java, Mexico and Spain.

Powerfully affected by the Spanish Civil War, he became firmly committed to the Communist Party, which resulted in his having to go underground and eventually depart his native land. Returning later to Chile, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and was appointed his country’s ambassador to France. He was diagnosed with cancer shortly thereafter and died in Santiago in 1973.

As this production demonstrates, Mr. Neruda’s poetry is thick with exotic imagery and human passion.

Still, though it’s billed as a cabaret, the quality of the musical entertainment of this production falls somewhat short of the series’ usual standards. It’s really more accurate to judge this evening as a bilingual poetry reading enhanced with music. The singing is frequently uneven, and those expecting more of a cabaret-style floor show may be disappointed.

**

WHO: The In Series

WHAT: “Neruda’s World: A Cabaret of Poetry and Song”

WHERE: The Mexican Cultural Institute, 2829 16th St. NW

WHEN: Saturday at 5 p.m., Sunday at 4 p.m., Monday at 7:30 p.m.

TICKETS: $15 to $26

TELEPHONE: 202/518-0152 for information and reservations

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