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GALA Hispanic Theatre Divorcées, Evangelicals and Vegetarians

By • Apr 11th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Divorcées, Evangelicals and Vegetarians by Gustavo Ott
GALA Hispanic Theatre
Tivoli Theatre, Washington DC
Through May 1st
2 hrs with one intermission
Performed in Spanish with English supertitles
$20-$36 with discounts for students, military and seniors
Reviewed April 8th, 2011

Some 20 years ago a Pedro Almadóvar movie — Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown — was making the rounds. It featured three distraught women who were having man trouble. One of the troublesome men was Antonio Banderas. The women were distraught in a kind of funny way.

Three distraught women who are kind of funny are the title characters in Venezuelan playwright Gustavo Ott’s farcical drama Divorcées, Evangelists and Vegetarians. It is now playing at GALA, where it was a popular girls-night-out attraction eight years ago. Its bodes to repeat its girls-night-out appeal. The many 30-somethingish women in the audience at a recent performance were guffawing with delight.

Ott’s title characters are Gloria, a flamboyant narcissist; Beatriz, a frustrated empty nester; and Meche, a religious fanatic. Gloria is a vegetarian — but only sometimes. She adopts that guise when it enhances her far out pretensions. It also has helped her seduce a married macrobiotic vegan. Beatriz is the divorcée. Her son grew up. Her husband grew dull. She felt empty. She dumped her husband and became downright depressed. Meche the evangelist is a sort of secular nun, seemingly an evangelical Protestant, much given to crossing herself. And she uses a tote bearing a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe — a distinctly Roman Catholic icon. Meche’s problem is what is sometimes referred to as a compulsion to entertain “impure thoughts.” That’s right, the well-known sin of lust.

Gloria, played by Menchu Esteban, is the trio’s energizer. She bubbles and burbles. She is uninhibited. She teases and cajoles. She is stressed and discombobulated. She offers herself up as a role model and life coach for the bogged-down Meche and Beatriz. Meche (Gabriela Fernández-Coffey) ricochets back and forth between exaltation and exhaustion. One minute she is hysterically exorcising the demon of lasciviousness from Beatriz. The next she is lamenting her disappointments — which include the lack of a lust outlet. Beatriz (Monalisa Arias) laments frustrated vocational ambitions. She had hoped to be a bustling career woman but became a resentful wife and mother.

All three of director Abel López’s actresses hit a fast, agitated pace early on and keep it up right through to the end — almost. When the explosive Esteban is off-stage hunting down her married lover for a few minutes, her satellites are suddenly underpowered.

It is just as well that López keeps his showing whizzing along. Ott is a very permissive writer when it comes to worrisome implausibilities. Besides Meche being an apparent Protestant despite Roman Catholic appurtenances there are a few other oddities. Why is Gloria’s ex-lover suddenly enjoying a clinch with Beatriz in a movie theater? And how come the 21st Century Manhattan movie theater has a 1940s usherette (Meche)? And how come a NY easy listening music radio station is suddenly broadcasting a news flash about a fatality in Central Park? And who are these sketchy, cartoony characters, anyway? And how come the plurals in the title? There’s only one divorcée, one evangelist and one vegetarian. And … ? And … ? And … ?

But, in the immemorial way of farce, the flow incidents in director López’s production keeps rushing along, barely giving objections a chance to arise and put a drag on momentum.

Female characters in groups of three generate some kind of special dramatic dynamism. Male writers find all sorts of inspiration therein. Almadóvar mastered the comedy version. Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters is a perfect wry, poignant drama. The three sisters in Shakespeare’s King Lear inhabit the depths of tragedy. As for Divorcées, Evangelists and Vegetarian, it exemplifies preposterous, whiz bang farce.

Cast

  • Gloria: Menchu Esteban
  • Meche: Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey
  • Beatriz: Monalisa Arias

Crew

  • Director: Abel Lopez
  • Set Design: Daniel Pinha
  • Lighting Design: Jason Cowperthwaite
  • Costumes: Lynly Saunders
  • Sound Design: Brendon Vierra
  • Properties: Sofia Gawer-Fische
  • Stage Manager: Ivan Cano
  • Production Manager: Andres Holder
  • Technical Director: Andres Luque
  • Producer: Hugo Medrano

Disclaimer: GALA Hispanic Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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lives in Arlington with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren. Before retiring last year at age 70, he was theater critic at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for 27 years. Prior to that, he reviewed plays for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Texas Observer and the Swarthmore College Phoenix. Non-reviewing journalistic jobs include writing for the Houston Chronicle, the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Star and El Mundo de San Juan. Think about it: most of the papers he worked for no longer exist. Maybe this internet gig has better longevity prospects.

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