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Romance, intrigue, and sword fighting

Laughter and love are major themes of Northeastern’s next student theatre production, The Phantom Lady, a 17th-century Spanish cloak-and-dagger play about a young widow’s use of deception to communicate with a man who falls in love with her.

The play opens Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 8 p.m. at the Curry Student Center Theatre and runs through Sunday, Nov. 17. It is directed by Jonathan Carr, an assistant academic specialist in the Department of Theatre.

“The play is one that I’ve wanted to do for about a decade now,” Carr explained. “I read it on a beach and just fell in love with it. It’s charming, and it has romance, intrigue, and sword fighting. It checks off a lot of the themes that audiences really love.”

The Phantom Lady was written in 1629 by Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca, whom Carr labeled as a contemporary of William Shakespeare. “Calderón’s plays have a tendency to feel almost familiar, like they are in the same world Shakespeare inhabited,” he said. “You are in this world of rich language and complex characters, but Calderón’s plays take different turns that surprise us.”

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The play follows Dona Angela, a young widow whose two brothers forbid her from any male companionship. In order to communicate with Don Manuel, a visitor at her family’s castle, Dona Angela employs deceptive tactics to make herself seem invisible.

“It’s really surprising and it translates well to a modern audience because it introduces the strong female character as we understand it today,” said Amy Henion, a fifth-year communication studies major and theatre minor who will play the part of Dona Angela.

In addition to memorizing lines, some cast members have been hard at work learning intricately choreographed sword fighting scenes. Zahan Mehta, a fourth-year student playing one of Dona Angela’s brothers, is in two such scenes and said it’s been exciting to learn how to make them appear dangerous to the audience.

“We started by learning how to hold swords and basic positions,” Mehta said. “The actual choreography was very daunting at first because the swords aren’t necessarily sharp but they can still do damage. It was scary to think it would be going so much faster the day of the show.”

Paula Ries, the production’s costume designer and a Northeastern alumna who earned degrees in theatre and dance in 2005, noted the challenge of bringing the play’s time period to life. She pored over images of paintings from Europe’s Renaissance era to select the appropriate costumes for the characters, which span social classes and hierarchies.

The Phantom Lady is the second student production of the academic year. The 28 members of the cast and crew started rehearsing in the Curry Student Center Theatre for the first time about two weeks ago, since they couldn’t use the space until the production of the Elephant’s Graveyard completed its run.

To acclimate the cast to performing on the set, stage manager Victoria Oggioni, a third-year theatre student, taped the outline of set pieces to the stage. “It’s exciting to walk into the theatre and discover new set pieces that weren’t there the day before,” Oggioni said. “We’ve done a lot of work on an empty stage, but I think we have made really good time and everyone is so dedicated to the show that it has just worked out.”

For show times and tickets, visit the Northeastern ticket center website.