a kate west review
written & directed by Rubén Amavizca Murúa
with the Grupo de Teatro Sinergia
at the Teatro Frida Kahlo Theater
running December 2005
The colorful and boisterous love affair between famous Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is captured yearly in the Frida Kahlo Theater/Grupo de Teatro Sinergia’s production of “Frida Kahlo”. In keeping with the fascinating culture of the piece, you can choose between either the English or Spanish version; the actors memorize both scripts. The theater itself gives a nice first impression when one walks in, with a painted sunny floor, happy blue walls and Mexican style décor. The fabulous folkloric costumes and jewelry will catch your eye also, all contributing to a vibrant glimpse into a surreal artistic world.
The play is inspired by an essay by Elena Poniatowska, various letters and documents from Kahlo’s life and from Martha Zamora’s book “Frida Kahlo; The Brush of Anguish”. In a short two hours, you are briefly immersed in Frida’s tumultuous life. She lived in pain, both psychically and emotionally. As a child, she contracted polio and as a young adult was in a terrible bus accident which freakishly impaled her on a pole. As a result, she was plagued with spinal operations for the rest of her life. She also met Diego Rivera. As she says in the play, “there were two great accidents in my life: the bus accident and meeting Diego.” And what a wild ride it was.
The intense Minerva Garcia plays Frida, often deep in monologues, with herself, the audience and a puzzling little character called Judas (Edwin Rivera Corcios). There is a Mexican tradition where the people burn straw effigies of a Judas character and as Frida loved dolls, this character comes to life as her artistic consciousness, signifying death a little too. Corcios plays him too effeminately, coming across a bit grating in the first act, though he tones it down in the second. The story would be just fine without this device.
Other than that bizarre touch, the story is fairly straightforward. Frida meets Diego, they fall madly for each other and Diego spends the rest of Frida’s life cheating on her and making her miserable. He almost can’t help it though as he is a grotesque (although immensely talented) man boy and Richard Azurdia plays him with all the necessary extravagant magnificence. Garcia coos over him as Frida, calling him her “baby toad” but the final straw comes when he sleeps with her sister Cristina (Renée Durón). That he also has the gall to introduce her to his many lovers, including a glamorous actress named Paula Goldberg (Cristina Frías), illustrates the ridiculous lengths they will go to eviscerate each other. However, all the pain in her life most likely made Frida the extraordinary artist that she was. If her life had been easier, had she not had both great pain and great love, would her work have been as open and as raw?
The two main characters are wonderfully well versed, matching each other’s passion very well, and the supporting actors are fine. Director Rubén Amavizca Murúa keeps a good pace, with seamlessly blended scene transitions and well-balanced emotions. It is the merest glimpse into a complex life, but you’ll find it’s a fulfilling night out. The audience this particular night sure loved it. Be sure to get precise directions, though, as the theater is a bit hard to find.
Direct from the source:
The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait