As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. 

TODAY

Tuesday, December 12

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A/C
« Interview with Barbara Bates: Chicago's "Fashion Star" Final Fight Family: A Well-Oiled Creative Machine »

Theater Mon Mar 05 2012

Las Hermanas Padilla, the Taco Bell of Theater

LHP.jpg

Erica Cruz Hernandez, Emma Peterson, Jackie Alamillo, Natalie DiCristofano, Meghann Tabor and Natalie Turner-Jones in Chicago Fusion Theatre's Las Hermanas Padilla. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

A couple of decades ago, social satirist Paul Mooney gave an exhaustive commentary on the state of how race patronage works in show business, specifically Hollywood. In his act, Mooney lowers his voice to become the voice-over for the marketing campaign for the 1990 movie Darkman - "Who is Darkman" Who is Darkman?" in a deep and slow bluster, Mooney mimics the announcer, recounting his enthusiastic anticipation of wanting to see this "Darkman." Of course Mooney comically implodes upon the revelation that "Darkman," well, ain't "dark," but Liam Neeson.

Chicago is teeming with Latina actresses, and yet the producers of Las Hermanas Padilla couldn't be bothered to find 10 Latinas to place on stage and bring their cultural experiences, the deeply personal and emotional thoughts and deeds of their female ancestors before them to playwright Tony Meneses script. Las Hermanas Padilla's inclusion of mysticism and spirituality is just as imperative to the production as the backdrop of war and death, and competent casting could have made for a competent production. Unfortunately, its Chicago premiere plays itself out like a throwback cosmic joke, a painful reminder of the unfortunate all-white production of Lincolnshire Drury Lane's The Wiz back in '86. LHP is inauthentic, foreign, and an insult to racial and ethnic sensibilities.

At no point did my Latina date and I feel comfortable with this production. Condescending, cold, and smug, falsely advertised as "diverse," LHP plays like an old-school Lifetime movie -- filmed in Canada all the while trying to convince its audience that it's made in America. My date pointed out that the two identifiable Latinas (and the most talented) were relegated to the smaller roles: Erica Cruz Hernandez's Chave and Nilsa Reyna's Blanca. Chave spends her time cooking for her "sisters," given little to say, while Blanca is physically and emotionally isolated from "the family," coming 'round to beg for money or receiving a visit in her "dirty" home. The marginalization of these actresses and their positioning in "the sisterhood" matters to a lot of us, perhaps because it reflects our personal experiences, literally every day of our existence. From the production standpoint, Hernandez and Reyna are credible, believable. What little they're given, they make their pain, pride and anxiety real for us. It is beyond comprehension why these actresses were relegated to minor roles with minor voices. Both should have been cast as the lead protagonists, rather than assigned roles as "the help."

The remaining actresses substitute screaming their lines in place of conveying feelings or emotion. The other actresses trip over their lines, talk over one another, skip beat after beat; Spanish names are Americanized, the actresses not feeling the need to bother with correct pronunciation of their "sisters'" names. Natalie DiCristofano is absolutely dreadful as Carmen, delivering every single line as if she's Billy Crystal working his Sammy Davis Jr. interpretation.

Hernandez and Reyna are the exceptions, the rest of the women sound (as it would be woefully inaccurate to call their performances "acting") off not as "true" sisters waiting for their men to come back safe and sound, but like harridans in-training hanging out at an upscale suburban mall food court one-upping one another on their individual good fortune of marrying well. I felt like I was trapped in a thirtysomething rerun. If performance were a Mexican banquet, director Juan Castañeda delivers Taco Bell -- cold, limp, and days old. The one redeeming facet is found in Noël Dominque Straley's set design, with a proper mix of old-world setting and multimedia overlay.

Las Hermanas Padilla is promoted as a "diverse, all-female cast." Unless the definition of "diverse" includes a train ride in from the barrios of Glencoe or East Lakeview, then best of luck seeing true diversity in this production. Tony Meneses crafted a well-written play. I'll look forward to seeing it when there's a production team that has the courage to properly cast and give full light to Latina actresses and can do proper and faithful justice, or at least pronounce the names correctly.

Las Hermanas Padilla plays through April 1 at the DCA Storefront Theater. For tickets and more information, visit the DCA Theater's website.

 
GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

Blogroll

ACRE
An Angry White Guy
Antena
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Collaboraction
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Defibrillator
Devening Projects
Digressions
DIY Film
ebersmoore
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
HollywoodChicago
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
InCUBATE
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
J-Pointe
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Marquee
Mess Hall
N'DIGO
Neoteric Art
NewcityArt
NewcityFilm
NewcityStage
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Onstage
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
Performink
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
SAIC Blog
The Seen
Sharkforum
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Steppenwolf.blog
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
threewalls
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Vocalo
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store

 

Events


A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.



About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop, nancy@gapersblock.com
A/C staff inbox: ac@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15