'A Little Betrayal Among Friends," an Airmid Summer Theatre Festival world premiere based on a Spanish Golden Age classic, takes digital-age liberties with its presciently feminist inspiration.
María de Zayas y Sotomayor's "La Traición en la Amistad," written in 1632 -- two years after Tirso de Molina's legend-launching "Don Juan" and a generation after Shakespeare's death -- has been updated and rewritten (in English) for Airmid by Latina playwright Caridad Svich.
"La Traición" (the treason) envisioned a feminist era of sexual dominion that machismo-driven contemporaries couldn't imagine.
So it's no stretch for director Tricia McDermott to call it a Renaissance "Sex and the City."
Meet Felicia, described in the program as a "free-spirited upper-class woman." She's nobody's fool as played by Caroline Strong, and nobody's mistress, though not according to conventional virtue. She pleases whomever she chooses and vice versa. Among her pleasure-providers is Don Juan, a resplendent playboy embodied by Amar S. His verbal sparring with Felicia, however, betrays a chink in his amorous armor. He's met his match in Felicia, an unblinking cultivator of multiple lovers.
We're caught in an R-rated time warp. There's texting and sexting going on as we watch the players cavort in vaguely Elizabethan costumes (by Brooke Cohen) and Baroque manners that remind us, helpfully or not, of the source material.
The title betrayal concerns the liberating amorality of Felicia, blithely above it all as played by Strong, and her affection for Marcia, less worldly as played by Elyse Beyer. Marcia swoons for Lysander, a Shakespearean comic figure in the handsome person of Michael Rinere, whose affinity for females, his attendant (Antoine Jones) points out, is so democratic as to be indiscriminate.
Felicia claims she's acting on Marcia's behalf as she beguiles Lysander. All the better to reveal his true intentions, Felicia claims. But Strong encourages our suspicion that she revels in the quest. Her intrigue results in renewed prospects for jilted lovers: Gerry (Dominick DeGaetano), who pines for Marcia, and Laura (Stephanie Israelson), who teases with the hope of regaining Lysander's affection.
Tymberley Whitesel's faux stucco urban set frames the sexual intrigue beneath shade trees in a verdant corner of Nissequogue River State Park.
"Sex and the City" with an ineffectual Mr. Big (Don Juan) makes for a one-sided battle of the genders. Ladies get the first and last laugh.
WHAT "A Little Betrayal Among Friends"
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 14, Nissequogue River State Park, 799 St. Johnland Rd., Kings Park
INFO Free (donations requested), bring a blanket or chairs; airmidtheatre .org, 631-704-2888