Playwright: Teresa Dovalpage
At: Aguijón Theater, 2707 N. Laramie
Phone: 773-637-5899; $15-$20
Runs through: Dec. 3
BY MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
The first day of November is celebrated in many countries as the day that souls of the departed are said to rise from their graves. In Mexico, families honor their dead by preparing shrines decorated with flowers, sweets and mementos of their deceased loved ones. But the members of the Gallegos household are uneasy this year: Caridad is chafing under her responsibilities as a new mother. Her husband, Michael, prefers to ignore the tension, her best friend Margarita thinks she should see a therapist and her mother-in-law, Rita, cannot forget the night that her own teenage daughter—Angelica, Michael's sister—fled her strict upbringing, never to return. Compounding their distress is the ghostly voice of La Llorona, the legendary weeping woman whose spirit roams the earth in search of her murdered children.
Novelist-turned-playwright Teresa Dovalpage paints a group portrait of conflicting cultures. Although its setting is present-day Albuquerque, Rita adheres to the customs of her native Mexico, while Caridad is Cuban and Margarita is Puerto Rican; their ambitions are shaped by their respective countries' turbulent histories—flashbacks reveal Angelica's rebellion to be rooted in the envy of her female Anglo peers. Dovalpage's play can also be read as an exploration of postpartum depression and the remedies available to prevent further proliferation of infanticidal Lloronas. Or it could be a caveat on the destructive effects of secrets kept too long silent—'skeletons in the attic,' so to speak, that also clamor for liberation on the day set aside for that precise purpose.
Under the direction of Rosario Vargas, the Aguijón Theater ensemble addresses its multiple subtexts without ever losing its way amid its author's diverse agendas. Marcela Muñoz and Claudia Rentería make the sullen Caridad and the melancholy Rita a formidable, but never unsympathetic, pair of antagonists. They are ably supported by Nicolás Guzmán Valentín as the passive Michael and Carla Alegre as the forthright Margarita. At the center of the action in this Spanish-language production, however, is the peace-making phantom Angelica, rendered by Alicia Ponce with just the right balance of adolescent eagerness and allegorical innocence.