BWW Review: A Mother of A Performance Given By Two Female Powerhouses In An Involving THE MADRES
THE MADRES/by Stephanie Alison Walker/directed by Sara Guerrero/Skylight Theatre/thru April 29, 2018
The Skylight Theatre Company's National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere of THE MADRES most effectively succeeds in personalizing the plight of Argentinean mothers of 'disappeared' children during the height of La Guerra Sucia (The Dirty War) in 1978. Anchored by the two incredibly strong performances of Margarita Lamas as Josefina and Arianna Ortiz as her daughter Carolina, THE MADRES involves and mesmerizes whenever these two interact. Sara Guerrero very ably directs these two enormously skilled actresses as if they were in an extreme fighting ring, continuously building the clashing tension, alternately circling each other, doing bits of housecleaning, and then lashing out in biting verbal attacks and accusations. But underneath all this arguing and disagreements, the mother-daughter love's quite evident, though sometimes deeply, deeply buried.
Playwright Stephanie Alison Walker's very smart script with her depictions of her two leading ladies would be dream roles for any Latina actress looking to sink her teeth into a meaty part. And for a younger Latina, the part of Belen, the 'disappeared' pregnant daughter of Carolina (and granddaughter of Josefina), boasts some strong moments amidst her weakened condition as an ill-treated detainee. Natalie LLerena readily displays all the varying, widely opposing emotions Belen goes through in finally coming face-to-face with her family. Llerena allows Belen's love and loyalty to her family sneak through her almost-completely brain-washed facade.
However; Walker, intentionally or not, skews in favor of the women. The two male characters appear hardly sympathetic or effectual. Gabriel Romero essays Padre Juan as a nosy, former religious confessor of Josefina and her family. He's powerless (or too afraid) to stand up for these women against the realities of the 'disappeared' or subversives, despite his previous warnings to them.
As Diego, the character seemingly in control; Alexander Pimentel nails his portrayal of the devoted soldier of the reigning military junta with a pouting lip, a still existing 'crush' on Belen, and no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
Walker's profound script illustrates just how far a mother must go through in those troubled times.
Kudos to set designer Christopher Scott Murillo for Josefina's lived-in living room set, and costume designer Jojo Siu for her appropriate period outfits on the women and the suitable uniforms on the men. Always good when 'normal' lighting or sound goes unnoticed. So a round of applause to lighting designer Wesley Charles Chew and sound designer Corinne Carrillo for being efficiently, mistake-free invisible.
Go see THE MADRES for the two actresses, at the very top of their game, going at it with each other, and learn some important history as a welcomed plus.