BWW Review: THE ABUELAS Offer Conflicts & Strong Performances
A well-acted ensemble gives THE ABUELAS its relatable humanity. Stephanie Alison Walker has written a unflinching look at realistic, flawed relationships under the most atypical circumstances. THE ABUELAS (THE GRANDMOTHERS) - a follow-up of Walker's THE MADRES (THE MOTHERS) also deals with the Dirty War in Argentina in the mid-1970s.
Luisina Quarleri totally inhabits Gabriela, the central figure of THE ABUELAS. A successful musician, Gabriela has earned the first chair celloist position with the Chicago Symphony. She lives with her newborn and her husband Marty, an architect, also successful (charismatically limned by Seamus Dever). Gabriela and Marty vacillate between newly-wed affection to long-time married sniping - all in a matter of seconds. Visiting them from Argentina, Gabriela's Mommy Soledad (a fiery Denise Blasor), a sometime passionate, most times overbearing, all times manipulative force of nature not quite an agreeable, or welcomed, presence in Marty and Gabriela's tastefully-appointed, high-end loft. (Kudos to scenic designer Edward E. Haynes, Jr., and to projection designer Adam R. Macias for his Chicago city views from the three huge picture windows.)
On the occasion of Soledad's birthday, she has invited Cézar, a charming Argentinean she just met at church to join the birthday dinner Marty has been preparing for her. David DeSantos makes his presence known with his booming, projecting voice as Cézar, a forensic investigator. Cézar brings along an uninvited guest, Carolina, whose identify and purpose takes a while to reveal itself. Irene De Bari curiously displays much hesitation as the mysterious Carolina.
All handle their high-intensity, confrontational scenes quite well - Quarleri's Gabriela with Dever's Marty, Quarleri's Gabriela with Blasor's Soledad, Quarleri's Gabriela less confrontational, but intense in a different way with Santos' Cézar .
Carolina Montenegro makes her presence known in flashbacks as Belén, an integral character in these proceedings.