Arts-Louisville Reviews
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Performing Arts

January 26, 2018

Searching For Lost Women

Judith Gonzalez L. & Hilsermarys Jo Valor in Guiando a Molly. Photo by Pablo Escobar.

Guiando a Molly (Molly Driven)

de Haydee Canovas
Directed by Jay Maria Padilla

Obra en español con supertítulos en inglés
In Spanish with English supertitles

Review by Keith Waits


Entire contents copyright © 2018 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

I would hazard to guess that human trafficking still seems far removed from the day-to-day reality of most people; a nearly incomprehensible plot device for adrenalized action films and always someone else’s problem. Even after watching Haydee Canovas’ new play, Guiando a Molly (Molly Driven), it seems a distant idea.

Molly (Hilsemarys Jo Valor) and Cari (Judith Gonzalez L.) are outreach workers aiding homeless women and children who are struggling with drug addiction and a reliance on prostitution to survive. Two particular women Brittany (Hannah Marie Connally), and Allison (Sarah Baker), are highlighted in the narrative, and the play does not soft-pedal the desperate hopelessness of their circumstance. Canovas is working from first-hand experience, and the emotional details feel authentic.

Yet I never felt the onstage action fully explored the stated theme of human trafficking except in recognizing that the women, often minors who have run away from home, are easy targets for the nefarious trade. But Canovas stays in the streets, with the local milieu surrounding social work only spoken about by the upper classes in tony fundraisers. It is a compelling narrative to be sure; it just seems focused on the issues at one level and not the larger machinery of the human trafficking network.

Still, Canovas fills her text with specific details of Louisville geography, with excellent videography and projections illustrating the wide-ranging territory covered by Molly and Cari as they search for lost women and children. At one point Molly delivers an extended lecture in which she identifies the two most common exits off of I-64 at which to encounter prostitution activity: Hurstbourne Parkway and Blankenbaker Road, both located in the heart of East End middle-class privilege. It is hard reality buried beneath an illusion of suburban security.

The physical staging struggles to rise above the pedestrian, especially in act one. With static blocking and instances where stagehands are required to awkwardly move or retrieve props when it seemed reasonable for an actor to handle the action in the course of exiting a scene. The second act played much better on this score, with less distraction, but the text is rooted in didacticism that does the director no favors. There is thematic and geographic flow, but it lives in the projections and the rich and subtle work of the cast members.

Each of the women onstage was exemplary, delivering natural performances largely free of artifice. Valor and Gonzales were especially strong in their partnership and had great chemistry that exemplified their bond as friends and co-workers, and the deep emotional investment in their work. Canovas doesn’t let her script go soft, and these two actors effectively played every tough moment. Baker and Connally were equally important and just as effective in essaying two tragic figures on the precipice. Liz Benitez was fine in a smaller role, and Juan Martin was solid playing a selection of supporting male roles, but, as scripted, neither demanded as much as the quartet at the crux of the action. Director Jay Marie Padilla provided good support as Molly and Cari’s supervisor, Brenda.

Guiando a Molly tells an important story, one that will shock many. Americans are at their core reactionaries, and civility is often conveniently measured by the limits of our own personal experiences. ‘It can’t happen to my family – not in my home.’ Senora Canovas here writes with such passion because the characters and the story are drawn from her own experience, so the authenticity of Molly Driven seems unassailable, but it feels like she has more that she could tell us.

The play is written and performed in Spanish with supertitles, but the story is not limited to Spanish-speaking residents, it just happens to come from a voice that takes that point-of-view. Molly and Cari may have an easier, deeper empathy motivating their commitment because they are immigrants, and perhaps that gives them a greater understanding of how a community’s children can come to feel like they no longer belong. They are not depicted as clichés, although abuse colors at least one of their backgrounds, but Molly’s father was a successful engineer who worked, among other places, in Saudi Arabia, giving her Latina character a worldliness that is refreshing.

Guiando a Molly (Molly Driven)

January 25, 26, 27, February 1, 2 & 3 @ 7:30pm
January 28 @ 6:00pm

Tickets at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
Adults/ Adultos$21
Students and Seniors/ Estudiantes y tercera generación $16

Para mas información:
o 502-386-4866

Tickets at The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
Adults/ Adultos$21
Students and Seniors/ Estudiantes y tercera generación $16

Para mas información:
o 502-386-4866

Teatro Tercera Llamada
At The MeX
Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, where he is Managing Editor of their Artebella blog, and host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX-FM 97.1/ But spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for

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