"Las Hermanas Padilla" (Chicago Fusion Theatre): Sisters Intrigue and Mystify

"Las Hermanas Padilla" (Chicago Fusion Theatre):  Sisters Intrigue and Mystify

#47.  Women unite.  In dorms or cubicles, females bond into sisterhood.  Blood ties aren’t required for a gal pal to turn sister-friend.  Whether it’s genetic or environmental, women nurture familial relationships.

 Chicago Fusion Theatre, in association with DCA Theater, presents the Chicago premiere of LAS HERMANAS PADILLA.  The husbands have gone to war.  The wives wait for news.  Nine of ten Padilla sisters pass the time eating, drinking and fighting together.  They are not blood relations.  They married the ten Padillas brothers.  And now, they are wed into this family.  They all await their beloved to come home.  Until then, they share the pain of the unknown and the grief of the known.  LAS HERMANAS PADILLA looks at domestic strife on the homefront.

Playwright Tony Meneses has a fascinating premise: sisters-in-laws on deathwatch.  The idea and imagery is gripping.  Meneses uses pigeons delivering the dead man’s fate to his wife.  Projection Designer Liviu Pasare adds to this poetic messenger with dreamy cinematography.  A wife receives a feathery shocker and then the pigeon soars away.  It’s a beautiful and dark moment.  The actress reacts with heartfelt pain.  And in that tragic instant, I connect to the desperate despair.  It’s the rest of the times that I’m not engaging in who these women are.  Meneses is ambitious in taking on ten marriages during wartime.  On one level, I love the commune aspect, girl power and all that.  On the deeper level, I’m unsatisfied.  I don’t know these women’s stories.  I only know them as ‘the laugher’, ‘the drunk’, ‘the cook’, ‘the poet’, ‘the bitch’, ‘the pregnant’, ‘the child-bride‘ and the other three.  I want to know more about these ladies so I can properly mourn their loss.

Under the direction of Juan Castaneda, some of the soliloquies are unforgettable poignant moments.  The actress connects to the audience with profound emotion.  I’m just not certain who is delivering them:  names of character or actress. I’ll use my own labels to distinguish and describe the impact.  The pregnant one’s anguish makes me misty.  The drunk’s rant of injustice makes me reflective. The poet’s empowerment makes me hopeful.

LAS HERMANAS PADILLA represent the other prisoners of war.  Centuries of male dominated crusades left wives in a virtual emergency waiting room.  Meneses tells a war story from the wives’ perspective.  I’m intrigued with his sisters and I want more.

Production photograph by John W. Sisson, Jr.

Running Time:  One hundred minutes with no intermission

At DCA Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph

Written by Tony Meneses

Directed by Juan Castaneda

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays at 3pm

Thru April 1st

Buy Tickets at www.dcatheater.org

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