Goodman Theatre presents
THE SINS OF SOR JUANA
At 170 N. Dearborn
Written by Karen Zacarias
Directed by Henry Godinez
Thru July 25th
Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
“I will never write again,” scrawled in blood. Severe writer’s block? Submission to religious hierarchy? Atonement for pride? Goodman Theatre presents THE SINS OF SOR JUANA, a featured show in the 2010 Chicago Latino Theatre Festival. Playwright Karen Zacarias imagines the backstory around 17th century poet Juana Ines de la Cruz aka Sor Juana. In a Mexican convent, Juana forgoes cross-stitching with the other nuns to pursue intellectual expressions. A self-educated woman, Juana has been allowed to foster her poetry and philosophical musings. A pivotal piece of writing changes that arrangement when Juana pisses off the Bishop. Without a quill, paper, books, Juana retreats into a hallucinatory fast. In her tormented state, she recalls a life at court that led to her seclusion. Lust? Murder? Pride? What exactly are the sins of being born a woman with a passion to write? At a time of Inquisition influenced spirituality, THE SINS OF SOR JUANA is a mystical journey linking the past with the past.
Under the direction of Henry Godinez, the play’s components seem independent of each other. Actors have cloistered showcase moments but fail to be an ongoing communal mass. Malaya Rivera Drew (Juana) plays it more academic and less tormented as an oppressed artist. Nun of the sins stays cerebral missing a deeper emotional connection. Laura Crotte (Xochitl/Sor Filothea) is enchanting as the handmaid sidekick. Unfortunately, her amusing sidebars aren’t always heard because of the style of delivery, audio issues, or my seat location… not sure whose sin it is. Sitting in the Joe Minoso (Don Pedro) fan club section, the comedic enjoyment is heightened by the pleasure of the audience. Minoso goes full-out-buffoonery. Amy J. Carle (Sor Sara/Vicereine) delivers some of the most memorable lines with vicious authority, ‘You think loving someone brings happiness?’ Tony Plana (Padre Nunez/Viceroy) plays dual roles with a broad range of manipulation: conflicted priest and jealous husband. Dion Mucciacito (Silvio) is sexy confident as the swashbuckling gigolo. Christina Nieves (Novice) has funny moments as the naïve newbie nun.
Todd Rosenthal’s set is 17th century majestic. The Spanish influenced massive
stone columns play duality as a convent and Viceroy’s house with pop-up, drop down décor finishes. The costumes contrast in nun drabness verses colorful elegant aristocratic. Mina Hyun-Ok Hong has gone authentic with the details on the convent garb. In a wonderful scene of transformation, Juana is de-shrouded from the confines of her cleric uniform. It’s serendipitous to the show. The story is about an artist that stabs herself for ink. The passion must be hidden under the layers. It’s time to strip to expose the raw emotion. Let’s see some sinning that warrants confession.
On opposite ends of Row P, these Silvio fans sum up the show with, Cridlin: “line a Telenovela” and Corey: “shirt off again.”
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
There is no better Goodman retreat then Petterino’s, 150 N. Dearborn. It’s literally connected to the Goodman as Theatre Bob aka Chicago Theatre Addict discovered this opening night. My favorite bartender Eddie has Monday nights off. I let his understudy pour the Malbec. The atmosphere is pure Chicago theatre with sketches of actors and performers lining the room. It’s a perfect locale to muse about a writer quitting the craft due to external and internal oppression. Bloggers express thoughts without censorship. That’s good and bad. I don’t want anyone to be censored. But I also don’t want to be lumped in with the crazies on their ranting platform. Bloggers walk a fine line between credibility and dismissal. Although neither of us stabbed ourselves with knives, Theatre Bob and I passionately vow to continue writing.