"In the Time of the Butterflies" Review- Teatro Vista's 26th season hit

Teatro Vista is currently presenting the Chicago premiere of “In the Time of the Butterflies”, a play by Lifetime Achievement Obie Award Winner Caridad Svich, based on the well-known and acclaimed novel of the same name by Julia Alvarez, through May 22, 2016, at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln.

Directed by Teatro Vista’s Artistic Director, Ricardo Gutierrez, and starring Rinska Carrasco, Charin Alvarez, Flavia Pallozzi, Sari Sanchez, Ayssette Munoz, and Eddie Martinez, this is a fictionalized account of the lives of the Mirabal sisters, three of whom were murdered in 1960, for resisting the regime of the ferocious “El Jefe”, General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, himself assassinated the following year.

Eddie Martinez

This is an inventive production, with five women actors taking six roles and one male actor playing five characters. Similarly, the stage set, the garden of the Mirabal home, is transformed with the use of the ingenious scenic design, lighting, props and graphics of Andrei Onegin, Richard Norwood, Jamie Karas, Angelica Acebado-Frint, and the incandescent video projection of Liviu Pasare into the panoply of places where the action takes place- a dance with Trujillo; a prison torture cell; the country road where three brave women and their driver met their deaths.

Kudos also go to the wonderful sound design, (Brandon Reed) at turns filling the theater with original music and choreography, (Gabe Ruiz and Tommy Rivera-Vega) haunting us with the twitter of birds, and frightening us with the sounds of torture.The two-act play proceeds in seamless fashion sans intermission from the opening scenario- sisters innocently sewing or chasing butterflies in their garden to the ending, in that same garden, where the sole remaining  sister, as an old woman remembers them as they perhaps never got to be- dancing and singing freely, fearless and filled with joy.

Flavia Pallozzi, Ayssette Munoz, Rinska Carrasco, and Sari Sanchez

In the 50 years since Trujillo’s death, the Dominican Republic has made great strides in avoiding dictatorship and granting political freedom for it’s citizens, but in the decades under Trujillo’s rule, during which he murdered tens of thousands, those freedoms were increasingly curtailed as he established a regime of fear and terror, in concert with other Latin American countries.

The drama, as told in poetic quotable prose in book and play both, tells the story of how one of the sisters, Minerva, meets a girl at school, Sinita, who becomes her close friend, and eventually reveals to her that Trujillo is a killer. Three of the sisters commit themselves to overthrow the regime, and work with their eventual boyfriends and husbands to do so. As a result, their family is retaliated against, their parents die young, and the girls-particularly Miranda, whom Trujillo lusts over, are persecuted and harassed. Indeed, two of them, Miranda, who goes to law school but is denied a license, and Maria Teresa, are imprisoned and presumably tortured before they are released.

Rinks Carrasco and Eddie Martinez

All of the actors in this gem of a production- it’s moving, genuine, and strong- are thoroughly sympatico, yet, Eddie Martinez, as the sexy DJ; the slimy Trujillo; heroic revolutionary Virgilio Morales; the martyred dad, Enrique Mirabal; and the dedicated lost driver, Rufino de la Cruz, did a truly extraordinary job of acting, presenting all his roles with distinction and aplomb.The really compelling part of this performance, however, is the demomstrated love and tenderness between the characters. This reviewer had no problem believing the girls were adored family members, teasing each other about clothes and shoes and boys – and keeping each others faith and secrets until the very end.

As is said about sister Adele, (Dede), who survives, (at Chapter 1, page 10 of the novel), "A chill goes through her, for she feels it in her bones, the future is now beginning. By the time it is over, it will be the past, and she doesn't want to be the only one left to tell their story". 

Sari Sanchez and Ayssette Munoz

The play is highly recommended. For information and tickets, go to www.teatrovista.org

 All photos courtesy of Joel Maisonet

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