El Conquistador Lucidity Suitcase

Thaddeus Phillips has a knack for simultaneously thinking large and small: huge themes, ingenious low-tech devices for carrying them out. He can create a desert from a sand-filled suitcase, an army out of toy soldiers. In The Earth's Sharp Edge, he brought Palestinian guerrilla Leila Khaled back to life, and he once performed two Shakespeare plays by himself on a single evening, using such objects as a plastic flower and a high-heeled shoe as the other characters. El Conquistador! told the story of Polonio Castro, a Colombian peasant and lover of telenovelas, whose crops were wiped out by U.S. aerial spraying and who took a job as doorman at a apartment building in Bogota. The tenants -- all played on video by well-known Colombian actors -- turned out to be a crazed and outrageous lot, some of whom were involved in very shifty activities. Drugs, murder and a case of mistaken identity entered Polonio's life, which soon resembled his telenovelas. Phillips makes his own theatrical magic, combining the joy of a four-year-old absorbed in play with a sophisticated understanding of the possibilities of theater.


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