BWW Review: Milagro Theatre's LA SEGUA is a Rich and Complex Warning Against Our Obsession with Youth and Beauty
Time marches on and beauty fades - but women who are no longer young or beautiful are frequently tossed aside. What roles do both men and women play in propagating this situation?
In LA SEGUA, Alberto Cañas Escalante adapts a Costa Rican legend to provide a sharp critique of our cultural obsession with beauty. The Spanish-language production of this play at Milagro Theatre (subtitled for those of us who don't speak Spanish) is not only a complex exploration of our culture of vanity, it's visually stunning as well. I loved it.
The legend of La Segua was originally told to warn men against drunkenness and infidelity and women against loose behavior. In the legend, a young woman of Cartago has a relationship with a Spanish officer who leaves her and breaks her heart, causing her to go insane and become cursed. She turns into "La Segua," a monster with a horse skull and red eyes who wanders the roads at night, luring men on their way home to their families after a night of drinking. Looking like a young, beautiful woman, she persuades them to give her a ride, and when they do, she reveals herself as La Segua.
In Alberto Cañas Escalante's version, Encarnación Sancho, the most beautiful young woman in Cartago, falls in love with a Spanish officer who leaves her and breaks her heart. Rumor has it that he was lured away by La Segua, but Encarnación refuses to believe that he would betray her. So, she starts to believe that she has been cursed, that she herself is La Segua, indeed, that La Segua exists in every woman, i.e., that we all become monsters when we get old. It's an engaging script, even subtitled, building toward an unexpected and stinging final moment.
Milagro's production, directed by Roy Arauz, is richly layered, with every element, from Carrie Anne Huneycutt's gorgeous costumes to Trevor Sargent's often-haunting lighting design, emphasizing the fine line between beauty and decay. The performances were very fine as well, particularly Johanna Echavarría in the role of Encarnación, David Cabassa as her love interest Camilo de Aguilar, and Laura Di Mare as both Encarnación's mother and a townswoman commonly thought to be a witch.
Overall, I thought LA SEGUA was excellent. I recommend it very highly.
LA SEGUA runs through March 2. More details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Russell J. Young