Lily Hernandez in Confesiones…Photo by Haydee Canovas.
de Josefina López
dirigida por Jay Marie Padilla
Obra en español con supertítulos en inglés
In Spanish with English supertitles
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
In most of her work, Josefina López explores the hearts and minds of Hispanic women with vivid and bracing language that feels authentic; an honesty filtered through poetry. In her 1997 play Confesiones…, she draws compelling portraits of eight female characters who together might be said to chart a kind of multi-dimensional, fictional biography of what it means to be Chicana in modern American society.
The sequence in which we meet these characters places them in a more or less chronological order by age, so that we might potentially imagine the girls becoming the women. The youthful Rosie (Liz Benitez) and Sofia (Judith Gonzales Leyva) are impressionable and vulnerable, Rosie a child locking herself in the bathroom to indulge her Anglo fantasies of being adopted by the parents on The Brady Bunch, and Sofia speaks of the special pressures exerted in Hispanic culture on a girl protecting her virginity, and the burden of shame if she does not. Ms. Gonsalez Leyva delivers an adroit, emotionally fluid performance in her one role for the evening.
Next, Doña Concepción (Lily Hernandez) speaks to a Padre in scene in an actual confessional, revealing the truth of her loveless marriage and AIDS diagnosis, and the emergence of her lesbianism after the death of her husband. The tone of this monologue is a bit of an abrupt shift, but the importance of Catholicism in Hispanic cultures and its repressive impact for women is formally emphasized after its introduction in Sofia’s story.
Tiffany and Marquez-Bernstein PhD, both played by Xenia Miller, are presented as lectures, the first a less experienced, uncertain young woman attempting to speak in English about Frida Kahlo, and the second is a mature PhD empowering woman to become “Super Latina”. Ms. Miller plays both roles with the same degree of charm, although her soft delivery of the dialogue needed more projection.
Liz Benitez returns as Lolita, a prostitute who gives what is in effect a tutorial on the use of her sexuality to control and manipulate a man. López displays some daring in giving voice to a symbol of objectification, but she also powerfully symbolizes one pathway for these women. Sofia could easily be Lolita, her potential squandered because of that burden of shame, and Ms. Benitez’ strong work as the savvy, albeit tragic, Lolita is especially astonishing after the childish fantasy of Rosie.
Lily Hernandez plays the last two women, both tough and capable of violence. Roxie is a self-defense expert in police handcuffs after over-zealously responding to a man’s perhaps innocent approach, while Valentina is a Chicana activist using fiery rhetoric to inspire and empower women to take political stand against the controversial Proposition 187. Ms. Hernandez exhibits such range in her three roles – honestly, I had to check the program as to who played Roxie, because I did not immediately recognize her, and Confesiones… serves as something of a showcase for her talent.
López ends her piece on this call to action, having charted a rubric of female experience, little of it positive. Each confession reveals a different aspect of that collection, the only thing missing being privilege. With the exception of the child Rosie, who is as yet unspoiled, her characters have suffered deeply, and their statements represent various ways of coping and, with hope, overcoming.
Director Jay Marie Padilla’s staging is spare, with costumes and props the only visual design, and there are some clever music choices, but the impact relies on the performances, which are enough to get the job done. I do wish the recorded voices of Rosie’s family angrily pleading with her to come out of the bathroom had the force and energy that the circumstance called for. It would have added to the humor of the scene and given Ms. Benitez more to play off of. But Padilla has helped her cast bring forth subtle, well-observed characterizations that should elicit meaningful identification from the audience. And you don’t need to speak Spanish to find your own mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters in these words.
Confesiones… is a more accessible show for non-Spanish speaking audience members because the stage is never occupied by more than one character, making it easier to follow the English supertitles.
Junio 15, 16, 17, 22, 23 y 24 a las 7:30pm
Junio 18 a las 6:00pm
$15 por persona. Venta de boletos en la taquilla.
Para mas información:
502-386-4866 texto o llamada
$15 per person, ticket sales at the box office.
For more information:
502-386-4866 text or call
Teatro Tercera Llamada
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, 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 Arts-Louisville.com.