Recommended *** There are times when giving a rating to a play that I have viewed is difficult. Do I rate the play on the script? On the acting? The direction? Or the entire production and its value? Tonight’s World Premiere of “Another Word for Beauty” , Jose Rivera’s play with music depicting the true stories of prisoners in a Columbian prison placed me in such an awkward position. The direction by Steve Cosson was a bit disjointed, but may have been because the script itself follows truth instead of a story by an author. It seems that Rivera took the inspiration of these stories and kept them as accurate as possible in order not to have anyone claim he re-wrote their story.
This production is termed a music-and-movement-filled-play. That it is ! The original music by Hector Buitrago is wonderful and while the words are in Spanish (they do show the translations) we are able to follow the story-line thru the actions of the sterling choreography by Maija Garcia. The story depicts the annual beauty pageant that takes place at El Buen Pasto women’s prison in Columbia, and was developed by the Goodman in partnership with a New York based company, The Civilians. The artists involved went to Bogota to interview the ladies who participated so that the characters developed would bring the realism of what this was all about. For the prison, having this pageant televised shows the populace that the prison is truly working to make the lives of the prisoners better and that rehabilitation is not far off.
Let us remember, this pageant is only a few days of the year, for the public to see, and that the rest of the year it is “business as usual” These are offenders from all levels of life in Columbia: murderers, prostitutes, thieves, political dissidents and others. They are given the opportunity to try to attain the one year title of “Senorita Simpatia” in order to honor the Virgin of Mercy. This play takes us deep into the bowels of the prison, the country and the lives these ladies are forced to survive in. They are flawed, of course. They are far from the young lady that you would like to bring home to meet the family. But, are they really as bad as they are made out to be? Is it possible, that by being in prison they have become what the system would say they are? Learning more about how they became inmates and why they lived as they did becomes evident as the stories unfold. As to the depth and truth of these stories, we may never know for sure. I leave you to judge this for yourselves!
This is a powerhouse cast, and while I would have hoped for more members of our local Teatro Vista on the stage, I was very impressed with this cast of players. Socorro Santiago as the “old Woman”, our narrator/story-teller is dynamite. Other cast members: Stephanie Andrea Barron, Helen Cespedes, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Danaya Esperanza, Zoe Sophia Garcia, Marisol Miranda, Yunuen Pardo, Heather Velazquez, Carmen Zilles and Dan Domingues as the many male parts, were all strong and kept my attention as they did small stories as part of the story-telling experience. This was a difficult task. During the flow of the story, our narrator would take us back in time to another day in these ladies’ lives and how they became who they are! Sometimes, disjointed. Sometimes, perfect.
The four musicians- Ruben Gonzalez, Javier Saume Mazzei, Mike Przygoda (this name doesn’t truly fit, but adds diversity) and Diego Salcedo make the music work and never overpower the performers, allowing us to hear the magical tones (even if we do not understand the words-unless you Habla Espanol). The set (Andrew Boyce) is amazing and very functional. Mike Tutaj handled the projection design, and as always , it is sheer magic to see his work. The lighting by Robert Wierzel and sound design by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen, along with the fabulous costumes by Emily Rebholz, make this a visual spectacle to see. FYI- The Goodman is saluting the Latina/o artists in a celebration that has started with this production and will continue through March 13th- visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org/LCelebration.
“Another Word For Beauty” will continue through February 21st in the Albert with performances as follows:
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 7:30 p.m.
NO Sunday evening on 2/7 and 2/21
ALSO Saturday 2 p.m. performances on 2/6, 2/13 and 2/20
Tuesday, February 16th, 7:30 p.m. SPECIAL RUNNING TIME: 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission
Tickets range from $25-$75 and are available at the box office located at 190 N. Dearborn Avenue, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Beauty
Check out all the special events and accessibility at www.GoodmanTheatre.org
College nights, Mezz specials; The Goodman makes it easy to go to the theater.
Discount parking is also available at THE GOVERNMENT CENTER Self-Park garage, enter on Lake (west of Dearborn) or on Clark Street (south of Lake Street)
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Another Word For Beauty”