BWW Review: REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES Is An Insightful Story Still Finding Its Footing
REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES is the latest offering from Austin's Teatro Vivo. Written by Josefina López, the play was originally produced by El Teatro de la Esperanza in San Francisco in 1990. The show received rave reviews and was considered by many to be a revolutionary work of theatre. In 2002, it was adapted for film and premiered on HBO starring America Ferrera and the late Lupe Ontiveros. The adaptation currently produced by Teatro Vivo has also received a slight update to fit in with modern times, including cell phones and social media.
López's semi-autobiographical story is set in a small sewing factory in East L.A. where a group of Latinx women are racing to meet a nearly impossible deadline. To keep Estela's (Eva McQuade) tiny factory afloat, her mother, Carmen (Martinique Duchene), younger sister, Ana (Minerva Villa) along with employees Rosali (Ana Laura Santiago) and Pancha (Gina Marie) must work long hours in the stifling heat under the constant threat of La Migra. Told from Ana's perspective, the play deals with gender politics, body image, and the Latinx immigration experience as the women talk about their lives, lovers, and plans for the future. Initially, a reluctant participant, fierce young feminist, Ana eventually comes to understand and appreciate the women around her and their work.
Performances by the all-female cast vary but are overall respectable interpretations. Undoubtedly, the actors are at their best in the show's many humorous group scenes. As they discuss and debate everything from the roles of women to food, the cast displays a natural cadence and rapport with one another that makes their bond believable to an audience. As far as solo performances go, the most notable comes from Gina Marie as the quick-witted, sharp-tongued, Pancha. Marie brings the complexity of her character's background to the forefront with humor and heartbreak. Other standouts include Martinique Duchene as the talkative, strong-willed Carmen and Eva McQuade as the good-natured, but overworked Estela.
While the story and characters are engaging and intriguing, a lagging disconnect persists during the two-act play. Although director Claudia M. Chavez skillfully utilizes active silences, there are numerous moments that feel unmotivated and slow moving. Unfortunately, this lack of energy causes the nearly two and half-hour show to drag in certain areas. Dialogue memorization also seems to be an issue for the actors at times, giving the impression that lines were left out or forgotten. This causes the play's overall trajectory to become foggy and leaves the audience without the full impact of López's powerful script.
The show's set design by Tomas Salás brings the compact sewing factory to life. The design is appealing to the eye and the set's functionality gives the sense that it could actually operate as a working warehouse. Costumes by Melissa Swartz also perfectly fit into the world of the play. Swartz's design provides realistic everyday uniforms for the cast, as well as a glamorous turn for each of the women at the end of the show.
All things considered, REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES is an insightful look at the realities of immigration and the standards placed upon Latinx women. It's also an entertaining story about the incredible bond that women share. While the show is still finding its footing, its place and relevance in our community are undeniable.
REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES is now playing at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River St, Austin, TX 78701) until August 19th, Thursday-Saturday at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm.
Run time approx. - 2 hours and 10 minutes, with one 20-minute intermission.
General - $20
Reserved Seating - $25