It is suggested by Justice Theater Project artistic director Jerry Sipp that we ordinarily think of a “staged reading” as one where actors sit on stools, often dressed in black, in front of black music stands, only moving when they rise to speak. However, The Justice Theater Project’s staged reading of Real Women Have Curves that we watched recently was quite different. The actors move around in their blocked positions freely on a well-designed set. They are also garbed in obviously appropriate costumes. They carry non-cumbersome scripts; and during the Friday, April 5th, opening-night performance of Real Women Have Curves didn’t noticeably begin to rely on their scripts until well past mid-show.
Playwright Josefina López should be very pleased with the performance that we saw Friday night. This show is an excellent contribution to JTP’s theme for the 2018-19 season: “The Woman, Empowered.”
Even though we learned about the lives of these Latinas, we also laughed with them and cried with them. Director Gustavo B. Schmidt found a perfect cast, courageous in several respects, willing to bare their souls, their passions, and their bodies, and also to undertake a production such as this, with minimal rehearsals. Schmidt’s direction results in a snappy, fast moving show, with moves through a tangle of dress-making equipment carefully choreographed, and quick repartee among the characters.
Costume designer Sally Beale Hatlem has dressed the women from the skin out, providing work-time clothes and “nice” clothes, as well as one burst of “elegant” clothing. The set represents a tiny sweat shop where lady’s high-end dresses are assembled.
The workers are paid less than minimum wages, including Estela (played by Marina Enslen), who owns the business and still owes on it. Scenic designer Cory Arnold has built a cramped, uncomfortable workspace for the five women — it oozes suffocation and discomfort. And it turns out to be the blast furnace in which the stereotypes of Latinas (mother, virgin, or whore) are blown asunder.
The quintet of excellent actors are a true ensemble, melding together so it almost seems they could all shift parts in a flash. Valery Arevalo plays Ana, an introspective young woman, bent on education and aiming herself at the field of writing. Carmen, the mother of the owner and seven other children, all scattered afar, is played with charm by Jenny Doyle. She handles the switching from Spanish to English commandingly, trying to mother all the young women.
Her own daughter, Estela, portrayed by Marina Enslen, is in great fear of ICE (the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), because she has two infractions of laws. She stays on constant lookout, and needs desperately to save money for a lawyer as well. Rosali, who works the most complicated machine, is brought to life by Jamie Gonzalez, who brings to the role an alluring air of innocence as she works for a size-two body. Carol Machuca plays Pancha, the fifth of the seamstresses, with a sturdiness of character and a stern discipline.
A combination of a good script by an excellent and informed playwright and this superior cast makes for a delightful 90 minutes of entertainment and, perhaps, a bit of insight as well.
The Justice Theater Project presents REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES (staged reading) at 6:30 p.m. April 14 at the Herbert C. Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave., Cary, North Carolina 27617.
BOX OFFICE: https://www.etix.com/.
SHOW: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/real-women-have-curves and https://www.facebook.com/pg/The-Justice-Theater-Project-29290766458/.
2018-19 SEASON: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/20182018-season-of-shows/.
PRESENTER: http://thejusticetheaterproject.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Justice-Theater-Project/29290766458.
NOTE: Meet members of the Diamante Arts & Culture Center.
Real Women Have Curves (1990 San Francisco comedy): https://www.dramaticpublishing.com/real-women-have-curves (Dramatic Publishing), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0296166/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_Women_Have_Curves_(play) (Wikipedia).
The Script: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://costamesaplayhouse.com/im_pages/real_women_have_curves/Real%20Women%20Have%20Curves%20Study%20Guide.pdf (Costa Mesa Playhouse of Costa Mesa, CA).
Josefina López (San Luis Potosí, Mexico-born Los Angeles playwright): https://www.dramaticpublishing.com/authors/profile/view/url/josefina-lopez (Dramatic Publishing bio), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1058851/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008000077192 (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/josefinalopez (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josefina_L%C3%B3pez (Wikipedia).
Gustavo B. Schmidt (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/gustavo.b.schmidt (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.