This production of the Josefina Lopez play Real Women Have Curves is a collaboration between Lyric Arts and Teatro Del Pueblo. Teatro Del Pueblo produced the play last summer in Minneapolis with most of the same cast, I did not attend that production so am grateful for this remounted production at Lyric Arts. It’s a very well written play originally set in 1987 that has been updated to include cell phones and mentions of Instagram. Dealing with issues that seem as relevant today or even more so then when it was first produced in 1990. It’s a pleasant production that features a cast that so endearing that by the end it overcomes whatever shortcomings they have.
The Script is in the vein of Steel Magnolias or The Dixie Swim Club as it puts the focus on a group of women, in this case Latinas, exploring their relationships with each other while also spotlighting their roles socially and politically in the larger world.
Set in a tiny sewing factory in East L.A., this is the outrageously funny story of five Latin-American women who are racing to meet nearly impossible deadlines in order to keep their factory from going under. And while they work, they talk…about their husbands and lovers, their children and their dreams for the future. Ana, however, has dreams bigger than sewing the rest of her life away. Her world-weary coworkers can’t help but laugh at her ambitions and what they consider her “idealistic feminist philosophies.” As the summer unfolds, the threat of deportation and cultural pressures mount. The women navigate issues of self-image while uniting to achieve their seemingly impossible goals; learning to love and appreciate not only one another, but themselves in the process. A microcosm of the Latina immigrant experience, REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES celebrates women’s bodies, the power of women, and the incredible bond that happens when women work together.From Lyric Arts Website
What is interesting for a white midwestern male is how universal but also unique the relationships are. Some of the relationship nuances, like the mother daughter dynamics and the willingness to sacrifice for each other could be any group of women. But the constant fear of a raid by ICE, even for those who are no longer illegal, is where we in the audience stop knowing and start learning. That is one of the wonderful aspects of the script, we can relate to the characters in so many ways which invites us into their world. Then we are confronted with aspects we have never had to deal with but because we have been able to relate to the characters it allows us to better onboard the new perspective making the empathy we feel that much more tangible. This is a really good script and the reason to take in the production, it’s let down a little by the execution.
The cast is hard to comment on. They all have moments when they really bring it where you completely buy them in the roles, most of them also have moments where you see them as actors reciting lines they have learned. Most of them do not physically measure up to the roles. The dialogue that pertains to weight and body size loses it’s reality and the message of empowerment and acceptance, is dulled because of this. Maybe it’s wrong to criticize not casting by body type and then in the next sentence praise them for being inclusive in their casting as I’m about to. The role of Rosali is played by a transgender performer Xochi De la Luna, not as a trans character but as one of the women in the factory. This is as it should be, but I think we are still at a point socially that when unbiased gender casting occurs it should be applauded at the theatre companies acknowledged. The one performer who is never seen acting is the performer new to the cast Alice D. Piar Acevado who plays Pancha. She is Pancha from start to finish, the only false moment she has is when she, the petitist of the cast, has to make her declarations of having curves. All that said, by the end of the show, the cast has shown their hearts and whatever they may lack in polish is outweighed by the way they have endeared themselves to the audience.
I’ve seen, reviewed or been a part of enough productions over the years to differentiate between a good script and a bad one regardless of the production. This is a good script, the production at times feels ununified and unfocused. The themes are there in the script but they are not focused in the staging or performances and I think this is attributable to the Co-Directors Lelis Brito and Adlyn Carreras. The show just doesn’t flow as it should, the camaraderie between the women doesn’t feel natural at times. There is the decision to have Acevado get on a chair and change the hands of the clock on the wall everytime there is a passage of time between scenes. It’s a distracting bit of stage management that isn’t needed, ignore the hands on the clock or remove the clock. Perhaps it’s an attempt to recognize the deadline for the project they are working on, if so there’s a better way of handling it and emphasizing it through design and performance. In general, design wise the show looks and great. The set design by Mikha Aleman is excellent as are the lighting by Shannon Elliott and sound design by Eric M. C. Gonzalez.
Real Women Have Curves runs through October 30th at Lyric Arts in Anoka for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.lyricarts.org/real-women-have-curves
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