Performance Review: Occasion for Sin
Written by: Danielle Boss
Occasion for Sin is a dazzling new musical set during the Spanish Inquisition. With music written by Oriente Lopez and dialogue written by Katherine Brann Fredericks, (adapted from Teresa de Avila and Garcilaso de la Vega) Occasion for Sin truly delivers in an enchanting performance. The play opens with a naïve Prince Felipe, alongside his courtier Cobos, learning the ropes of what it takes to be king once his father passes and Felipe inherits the throne. In the midst of colonizing the New World, chaos ensues throughout Spain as gold imports are decreasing due to rebellion in both the Americas and Spain against imperialism. In Spain, religious leader Garcia leads the resistance against Spain’s exploitation of the native populations in the Americas for gold. He argues against the injustices the indigenous peoples face against the incoming conquistadors who pillage their native lands in the name of “gold, glory, and God.” Garcia has problems of his own when he fights to convince the Prince to end Spain’s plunder of the natives while Cobos insists that gold is most important to Spain’s economy. While struggling to maintain its worldwide reputation as a preeminent colonial power among dealing with these internal conflicts, and enforcing the policies of the Inquisition and spreading Christianity, Spain also has to deal with a growing Great Britain, who is slowly rising as a colonial power forced to be reckoned with.
Occasion for Sin is an enthralling spectacle with its superb writing, phenomenal acting, catchy soundtrack, lovely choreography, and stunning costume design. Emily White’s costume designs are not only beautifully intricate but also historically accurate to the time period. From the King’s royal garments to the outfits of the ensemble, every costume is adorned with magnificently breath-taking detail that is awe-inspiring. The collaborative work of Dan O’Driscoll, Joe DiNozzi, and Shelly Hutchinson in choreography is commendably masterful. The dance chorography done by Shelly Hutchinson is adept at not only telling the story but also in leaving audience members at the edges of their seats. Dan O’Driscoll and Joe DiNozzi manage to have their fight chorography both enticingly realistic and poetically beautiful. The most striking scenes are the ones taking place on the battlefield, where the chorography is unequivocally piercing, astonishing, and gorgeous. The way in which the actors fight not only propels the plot forward, but they also create an engrossing spectacle. Oriente Lopez’s Grammy award-winning background is evident in his riveting soundtrack. The songs in Occasion for Sin send tremors down your spine not only due to Lopez’s poetic lyrics and the emotional swelling of the orchestra, but also because of the incredibly moving singing by the actors that bring Lopez’s genius to life. With unforgettable songs such as “Mama Cocha,” “Tell the Sun,” and “El Dorado” among others, the soundtrack of Occasion for Sin truly sets the bar.
In an era of “Disney theatre” where many Broadway musicals being produced are adaptations of popular movies and television shows, Occasion for Sin stands out against the background noise. Comparable to shows like Hamilton, Occasion for Sin is part of an emerging new wave of original musical theatre addressing pressing issues through a historical lens. While addressing themes of imperialism, anti-Semitism, cultural oppression, and discrimination, Occasion for Sin gives a voice to the voiceless by demonstrating the true horrors the natives suffered under European influence rather than the regurgitated sugar coated versions often told. Occasion for Sin with its diverse cast offers opportunities for Latino actors and other actors of color in a white dominated industry. Occasion for Sin’s talented cast of singers, dancers, and actors truly make their mark in this groundbreaking musical. Morissa Trunzo is absorbing in her role as Teresa, a Jewish converso and nun who is having an illicit love affair with eminent religious leader Garcia. Trunzo’s raw emotional display of her character’s inner despair regarding Teresa’s religious passion and heartbreak over her forbidden love is emotionally stirring and captivating. Jason Pintar is marvelous as Cobos with the Shakespearean-like quality of his voice projection, his astute portrayal of a charmingly deceitful character, and the way in which his stage presence demands attention. Pepe Nufrio’s portrayal of the love-stricken priest Garcia is palpably transparent. Nufrio delivers a compelling performance with his skillful line delivery, brilliant display of Garcia’s conflicting emotional and mental state, and his command of the stage. James Rose is also charming in his role as the indecisive Prince Felipe. Rose’s voice has a musical quality that, paired with his lovely singing, is stunning. From his reactions, stage presence, and his precise body movements, Rose’s portrayal of the stubborn Prince is extraordinary. With Lopez’s musical composition, Frederick’s writing, and a brilliant cast, Occasion for Sin is a conglomerate of talent.
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity is a wonderful indie theatre festival that sets itself apart from other theatre festivals by encouraging all its shows to collect donations for a charity of their own choice. All performances of Occasion for Sin will be benefitting El Museo Del Barrio, New York’s leading Latino cultural institution that specializes in Latin American and Caribbean art. Fredericks and Lopez have truly outdone themselves in their tantalizing production of Occasion for Sin. Just like Golden Age Spain during its colonial reign and prowess, an Occasion for Sin is a force to be reckoned with in the world of musical theatre.