Theater Review: THE MADRES (Skylight Theatre in L.A.)

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by Tony Frankel on April 24, 2018

in Theater-Los Angeles


It’s 1979 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where people are disappearing right off the street. The so-called “Dirty War” waged by the military Junta against its own people is in full-swing. Josefina (Denise Blasor), a staunch homemaker in her 60s, and Carolina (Arianna Ortiz), her militant daughter, are searching for “Caro’s” pregnant daughter Belén and her musician boyfriend, both of whom have been missing for twelve weeks. Josefina receives a surprise visit from Padre Juan (Gabriel Romero), a priest who is now the chaplain to the military at ESMA, a known concentration camp. Next to drop by is Diego (Alexander Pimentel), a young soldier who used to be just a shy kid from the neighborhood, also stationed at ESMA. Their visits lead Josefina and Carolina to devise a plan — throw a baby shower — to try to see Belén again, but the authorities are watching.

Playwright Stephanie Alison Walker offers plenty of information about the “Dirty War,” a name the Argentine military dictatorship used for a period of state terrorism in Argentina from roughly 1974 to 1983; during that time, anyone believed to be a subversive or in any way associated with socialism was targeted. Many who came to be known as Desaparecidos (the Disappeared) simply went missing. This included students, artists, journalists, political activists, mothers looking for the disappeared, nuns and anyone who spoke out against the military’s reign of terror. An estimated 30,000 Argentines disappeared and were never heard from again.

It’s a worthy goal to inform us, and it’s a worthy story — especially the wrenching occurrences in the second act which allows for some family squabbling amid the surprising unfolding of events, including the arrival of a Desaparecida (Natalie Llerena). Too often, however, characters become mouthpieces for an educational forum, which can make scenes melodramatic, repetitive, and didactic. Additionally, the worthy actors seem to be floundering for subtext and meaning for these people that was not supplied by director Sara Guerrero. The evening is never boring, however, and the tension that is created comes from a game cast that gives 150% to make sure the tale resonates.

photo by Ed Krieger

The Madres
Skylight Theatre, 1816½ N. Vermont Ave. in Los Feliz
Fri and Sat at 8:30; Sun at 2; Mon at 8
ends on April 9, 2018
for tickets, call 866.811.4111 or visit Skylight Theatre

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