Reviews

The Hungry Woman at ASU's Lyceum Theatre Is Interesting, Lacks Subtlety

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See also: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: Misery Meets Company Meets Absurd Comedy at Phoenix's Herberger Theater

The Phoenix of The Hungry Woman is very different from the Phoenix we know. A sort of shanty town for gays and lesbians, the city exists on the border of two newly created territories, each with a dominant ethnic group. Medea, her lover Luna, and her son have been exiled from their country of origin as a result of the nation's prevailing homophobic ideology.

Moraga's Medea is a tequila-swigging lady with a whole lot to lament. Her husband, Jasón, has taken a new wife in her old country. He controls Medea's land, and when he finds out that his new wife is infertile, he attempts to regain custody of Medea's son. Medea goes completely crazy, obviously, and kills her son so Jasón can't have him.

Director Dora Arreola was brought on as a guest artist at ASU for this production. She is best known for her work as the artistic director of Mujeres en Ritual Danza Teatro. Her experience with dance and movement came across clearly in the play, and was one of the most enjoyable elements of the production. Each character had a well-honed physicality. A chorus of "Chihuateos" (generically tribal personas, clad in feathered masks and beaded moccasins) introduced each act and guided the narrative. They also performed choreographed story-dances which interspliced the folkloric elements into the tragedy.

The set was fairly minimal, but the director made great use of its simplicity. Several mobile units allowed for the play's frequent scenic changes -- from the home of Medea and Luna, to an insane asylum, to a border patrol holding cell, to a lesbian bar.

While the movement and set seemed seamlessly orchestrated, the same cannot be said of the acting. The first act of the play was awkward, to say the least. At times it seemed as though the actors were fumbling for lines, or reciting what they were supposed to say rather than being aware of the moment. A character would stop talking when they knew they were supposed to be interrupted by another character, leading to awkward pauses that easily could have been remedied with basic improvisation. At times, the actors relied on the tried-and-true-but-super-boring method of screeching to convey emotion. With a little bit more work, they may hit a smoother and more subtle stride.

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Zaida Dedolph
Contact: Zaida Dedolph