Frida Kahlo,
 la pasión
de Ricardo Halac (Argentina)

dirección Mario Marcel (Argentina)

Feb. 7 - Mar. 1, 2008

en el Gunston Arts Center

Teatro 2

Traducción al inglés proyectada

U.S. Première    -    Edades: 15+

Un momento en la azarosa vida de la gran pintora mexicana. Bajo el manto del inmenso amor profesado para y por su hombre, el muralista Diego Rivera, Frida enfrenta distintas formas del olvido. Su cuerpo maltrecho  por un accidente, su amor  arrollado por la infidelidad y su inmensa fuerza por vivir, contrastan y dejan el gran testimonio de su pintura tan íntima como universal, envuelta en la mejor música mexicana.


Galería de Fotos

Críticas de Prensa

Críticas de Prensa

Bob Anthony, by Bob Anthony

Brightest Young Thing, by Andrea

CityPaper, by Glen Weldon

DC Theatre Scene, by Rosalind Lacy

Express, by Express contributor Rachel Kaufman

MetroLatinoUSA, by Ramón Jiménez

Potomac Stages, by David Siegel

The Examiner, by Barbara Mackay (Special to The Examiner)

Sun Gazette, by Matt Reville (Staff Writer)

Washington Blade, by Patrick Folliar

Washington Post, by Celia Wren

Bob Anthony
Drama and Dance

Teatro de la Luna has opened  a long awaited new production on the life of Mexican icons, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, in "La Passion".  The story of the violent conflict between these two famous painters has been much told but Ricardo Halac in his retelling seems to leave out much of the promised "passion" of the title.  When arguments seem to arise, Diego simply walks out and stays elsewhere for a few days with another mistress.  Even the revolutionary fervor of the two along with their friend Trotsky seemed to be public relations deals rather than emotional involvement.   So this script really leaves the actors with no emotional builds or relaxations.   This makes the acting mostly tedious and one level repetitive.  Anabel Marcano presents a picture perfect Frida with very convincing bodily pains although she is given little opportuntity to express the emotional pains and strengths that carried her through life in lieu of suicide.  She seems to have little understanding of the paranoia that highlighted all of her self portraits.  Peter Pereyra who has proven himself as a fine actor in previous shows makes Diego out to be sheepish and somewhat envious of Frida's talent.  Anyone who has seen his magnificent murals around Mexico City knows this was an assured artist and an egomanic.   Cynthia Urrunaga plays Maria who was a consistent mistress of Diego but was a composite of the many mistresses through the violent (?) years.  Young Cynthia Ortiz-Urrunaga did a nice fantasy bit at the end of the show.   Mario Marcel gave some excellent stage pictures and one expects he was "chomping on the bit" to put more fire into the action throughout. The technicals for this production were superior especially the Mexican detailing around the two level set.  There was excellent audio-visuals and one always felt in the correct time and place.  This full house audience was overly enthusiastic at curtain call which is a high recommend that it is an excellent piece of entertainment. (To 3/1) (Reviewed by Bob Anthony)

Brightest Young Thing

“All women…always appear at the side of a man,” says actress Anabel Marcano, in her introductory lines as Frida in Ricardo Halac’s play, Frida Kahlo, the Passion @ Teatro de la Luna. With that established, Halac paints a two-toned dramatic portrait of one of Mexico’s most colorful female artists; positioning Frida as a constant and inevitable counterpart to male fixture, Diego Rivera.
Frida Kahlo, the Passion recreates excerpts from the tormented artist’s life. Marcano works within the limitations of a choppy script and resurrects Frida’s sizzling personality as she eloquently captures not only the passion, but also the extreme pain and sadness that colored Frida’s paintings and defined her life. After the powerful final act, Marcano emerged to take her bow still wiping some residual tears from her eyes. Peter Pereyra steps on Rivera’s political soap box and convincingly womanizes and rationalizes the contradictions that marked his love of Frida. In real-life, the incongruities of Diego and Frida, or the “elephant and the dove,” manifested themselves just as much physically as emotionally. Frida’s small, 98-pound frame was a visual mismatch to Rivera’s portly and gargantuan physique. Much to his disadvantage, the young and dashing Pereyra more closely resembles a disheveled Brooklyn hipster onstage than the 300 pound, six-foot tall Diego Rivera.

The show is simple, but visually stunning. The vibrant set, hair, and costume designs are complemented by the Mexican music that is sprinkled throughout the play, adding flavor and texture. Cynthia Urrunaga, who plays the part of Mexican actress and femme-fatal, Maria Felix, struts onstage clad in silk and sporting bling-bling and fur. Meanwhile, Marcano’s jewelry is bulky and handmade, her hair tightly braided and pinned to her head, and her wardrobe composed of the intricately woven indigenous garb that Frida was known to wear.

However, despite the strong cast and direction, the script is often jerky, bipolar, and contrived. Frida and Diego were volatile, but Halac tries to capture and then alter an overly broad and conflicting palate of emotions with only a brief and manic exchange of lines. Though their relationship is illustrated as one of mutual emotional dependence, Halac mostly provides limited snapshots of Frida’s life that portray her at her weakest moments—the times when she was frail, betrayed, and left to either listen to the sound of Diego making love to her sister or paint a portrait and suffer the disparaging banter of her husband’s lover, the implausibly one-dimensional Maria Felix. Frida’s talent and convictions play a minor role to her relationship with Diego and her own infidelities and sexual explorations are merely broached. At one point in the play, it is pointed out that someday Frida will be known as “Frida, the painter,” rather than “Frida, wife of Diego.” However, the Passion does a better job of enforcing the latter.

Frida Kahlo, the Passion

Starring Anabel Marcano, Peter Pereyra, and Cynthia Ortiz-Urrunaga. Written by Ricardo Halac, directed by Mario Marcel and translated by David Bradley. Presented by Teatro de la Luna, Gunston Arts Center, Theater 2, Arlington, VA. In Spanish with English subtitles. Through March 1.
brandon Says:

Saw it, loved it. Marcano is a beast, and great on the eyes! It wasn’t supposed to be about her life, but about her passion. So the play was written to do what it did. Set was beautiful and the play was very watchable. Spanish speakers will be thrilled especially.. (subtitled too)
February 15, 2008 at 9:17 am


Pain and Buffering

Martin Moran never cushions his victimhood in therapy;

a Frida Kahlo bio lays it on a bit thick.

That Teatro de la Luna’s production of Frida Kahlo: La Pasión feels more like devout hagiography than historical biography shouldn’t come as any real surprise—that title ain’t exactly subtle. But neither is it particularly accurate: Although there’s plenty of big-P passion to go around (the litany of causes responsible for Kahlo’s physical suffering unto death is dramatized with great care), there’s a profound lack of the lowercase variety. The tone’s all solemn nobility and hushed deference, and the actors, though perfectly fine, carry themselves with a uniformly cool bearing that serves to slow the pace and make the two-hour running time feel even longer.

It’s a remarkably juiceless business in the end, which is puzzling, given the show’s notably strong-willed and tempestuous subject. But director Mario Marcel places equal weight on every scene, and the play’s many dream sequences, which take place in a vague, cluttered area behind an upstage scrim, never cohere.

The evening’s most powerful moment—and to be fair, it works very nicely indeed—occurs in the last act, as slides of Kahlo’s paintings are projected above the artist (Anabel Marcano) as she lies on her deathbed. It’s only then, when the play manages to get out of its own way for a moment, that we manage to catch a real glimpse of the raw and uncompromising energy that Kahlo possessed.

DC Theatre Scene

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Frida Kahlo, The Passion

Reproductions of some of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s most famous paintings dangle from the ceiling in the lobby of the Gunston Arts Center. Her self-portraits are memorable-the  unplucked eyebrows that meet in a unibrow over piercing eyes of frozen fire.  Some of these icons remind us of the way Kahlo depicted herself as an allegorical Madonna or a fertility goddess of Aztec heritage who gave birth to dead fetuses that floated from her blood-splotched body like an unspoken prologue. Were those eyes expressing pain or masking it? Or simply saying, I am what I am.  Now Teatro de la Luna pays tribute to the liberated woman behind the mask of the great 20th century surrealist in the U.S. premiere of Frida Kahlo, The Passion, by Argentinean playwright Ricardo Halac.

Read more


Story With 3 Sides: 'La Pasion'

AT TEATRO DE LE LA LUNA, the tormented life of Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo is on display in an interpretation as beautifully surreal as Kahlo's paintings.

"La Pasion" opens with Frida, dying, played by Anabel Marcano. (She's a convincing Frida both emotionally and physically; Lorenzo González's hair and makeup deserves a nod.) We're soon drawn into Frida's memories of her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, and actress Maria Felix, who quickly becomes the center of a love triangle with both artists competing for her -- and each other's -- attention.

All the important elements of Kahlo's life -- the bus accident that crippled her, her miscarriages, her affair with Leon Trotsky and her interest in communism -- are covered in this production, which floats through time in a way that's confusing only for people who have read Kahlo's bio beforehand. The emotional plotline is consistent if not chronological, spinning a thread of desperate love and equally desperate anger.

Rivera, played by Peter Pererya, and Felix, portrayed by the often scene-stealing Cynthia Urrunaga, come and go while Frida, trapped by her broken body, stays put. It's rare that Frida leaves the stage; if she does, it's only so she can return to catch Rivera and Felix in a transgression.

For a woman whose paintings were so central to her life, Frida's art gets little stage time. Two of Rivera's unfinished murals set the scene, but Frida's work makes few appearances. Those looking for insight into the painter's work may leave disappointed, but "La Pasion" provides an intensely emotional glimpse into the great painter's personal life.


La vida de Frida Kahlo estuvo llena de pasión

Publicado 02/12/2008 - 1:37 a.m. ET

Algunos de los objetos que más resaltan en la obra "Frida Kahlo, la pasión", que presenta el Teatro de La Luna, son una mesa con solo dos sillas de junco y madera que muestran la pequeñez de la familia, un chinero donde en lugar de platos y tasas abundan las botellas de tequila, y dos talleres de algún muralista a cada lado de la sala con trabajos a medio andar.

También destacan en el centro de la sala una mesa pequeña para pintar con varios cuadros de rostros de regular tamaño, incluido uno con rostro de mujer y cuerpo de cabra atravesado por flechas, un florero con un ramo de gladiolas y un pomo de barbitúricos junto a una cama giratoria adornada con tres cojines bordados de corazones rojos donde destaca la palabra “amor” y al fondo una malla blanca con algo que parece una bodega.

Aparentemente todo es normal en esa casa de hace más de setenta y cinco años de antigüedad hasta que empiezan a sonar los lamentos de la conocida canción “La llorona”, que por su título sugiere que algo camina mal en esa familia.

Y así queda comprobado cuando Frida hace su entrada a paso lento y empieza a monologar con unos gestos en su rostro que además de mostrar un dolor físico también esconden un dolor psíquico.

Y en efecto Frida, que muy bien encarna la actriz venezolana Anabel Marcano, poco a poco empieza a desempolvar su pasado —y su presente— donde sale a flote no solamente que nació con la poliomielitis que le deformó el cuerpo, sino también un accidente automovilístico que la mantuvo medio paralítica y en cama por el resto de su vida envuelta en lamentos de todo tipo, bebidas embriagantes y calmantes para el dolor.

Aparte de eso toda su vida la vivió esa enigmática pintora con la frustración de no tener un hijo, soportar la humillación del divorcio y luego casarse de nuevo, la infidelidad de su esposo el muralista Diego Rivera, papel impecablemente encarnado por el paraguayo Peter Pereyra; quien no solamente tiene sus aventuras amorosas fuera del matrimonio con la propia hermana de Frida, sino también con la actriz María Félix, rol que muy bien interpreta la actriz peruana Cynthia Urrunaga.

Al entrar de lleno a la obra de dos horas de duración se puede ver que en cada apunte o en cada línea o forma que quiso dar la artista a sus lienzos, trazaba su propio perfil pero también trazaba a sus amigos y sus amores —hombres y mujeres por igual—, sus abortos y sueños en los que hablaba a veces con los muertos, su dolor agudo y constante, que la siguieron hasta la muerte a los 47 años de edad en 1954.

Todos esos detalles son muy bien encarnados por el elenco de La Luna: Marcano, Pereyra, Urrunaga y su hija Cynthia Ortiz-Urrunaga que interpreta el papel de calavera y quien solamente aparece por unos instantes al final de la obra.

Cabe destacar que la coreografía se asemeja mucho a la década de los treinta, cuarenta y cincuenta, que es cuando sucedió la mayor parte de los trágicos sucesos en la vida de Frida Kahlo, la mexicana más conocida en todo el mundo y de quien en el 2000 se subastó uno de sus cuadros en mas de 5 millones de dólares.

Urrunaga y Marcano son las que más se acercan a la realidad de los personajes, aunque a Frida nunca se le ve fumar, vicio que lo tenía muy pronunciado, pero sí muestra su fuerte adicción por el alcohol y los calmantes para el dolor.
Aunque la presentación de Peter Pereyra en toda la obra es impecable su parecido con Diego Rivera es abismal.

Pereyra es un joven flaco, medio rubio y con aspecto europeo, que es todo lo contrario de Rivera, de rasgos indígenas, moreno y panzón. De todas formas “Frida Kahlo, la pasión” del dramaturgo argentino Ricardo Halac, que dirige Mario Marcel y Nucky Walder merece la pena verla. La obra se presenta de jueves a sábado en el Teatro de La Luna a las 8 p.m. y el domingo a las 3 p.m.

Potomac Stages

With great care and high-mindedness, Teatro de la Luna provides audiences the opportunity to see Argentinean playwright Ricardo Halac’s brief biographical play with its sometimes ardent view of the stormy marriage between Mexican painter and Marxist Frida Kahlo and her husband, political fellow traveler and muralist, Diego Rivera, along with their complex relationship with glamorous actress Maria Félix. This is not a melodrama full of fire. Rather, this is an interior piece centered upon the physical pain and personal frustrations felt by Kahlo; unable to have children and often incapable of providing the physical intimacies her husband craves with the result that he beds women right under her nose. The script revolves around Kahlo and how her torments affect her marriage, her relationships, her world views and her paintings. As Kahlo, Anable Marcano grows into her pain and becomes one with Kahlo until it consumes her. Walking stiffly, dressed in indigenous peasant clothes, flat shoes, her hair tightly wound around her head, she displays an inner beauty and strength when compared to Cynthia Urrunaga’s sophisticated up-town looks as Félix. Peter Pereyra's Rivera is a bit too airy and light in depicting a celebrated muralist with a magnetic personality.

Storyline: The pain-ridden life of the great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and her tempestuous marriage to muralist Diego Rivera are depicted along with their Marxist politics and complicated relationship with femme fatale actress Maria Félix.

Director Mario Marcel has taken what could have been a static talkfest of a script and turned it into a theatrical piece worth seeing for those interested in the life of Kahlo, a painter whose works have been exhibited in museums in the DC area. In his casting, Marcel found his Kahlo in Anabel Marcano, with her deep beauty and strong features. The audience soon feels that Marcano cares about Kahlo and her life, and that her portrayal is more than another acting job. Marcel surrounds Marcano nicely with Cynthia Urrunaga, with her glowing pale prettiness, and Pereyra, a handsome man, but certainly not the elephant that he is called in the script. For those who know of Kahlo, playwright Halac provides a concise sense of the era, but somehow the history of those turbulent times seems cold and lifeless. There really was revolution in air. Those who know little of Kahlo or her Marxist beliefs may wonder what all the fuss is about. The final scene in which Kahlo’s paintings come to the fore seems late to the production. Some of Kahlo’s works might have been used earlier to entice the audience with visual depictions of what Kahlo was speaking of when she spoke of her work as a painter.

Marcano throws herself into the role, not with a “chewing the scenery” approach, but rather by inhabiting the pain and suffering that Kahlo endured. She can and does project that pain whenever she speaks in her deliberate manner; each word having difficulty leaving her mouth as if each brings pain to her body. With her costumes and makeup, one can “believe” it is Kahlo on the stage. The handsome and athletic Pereyra has the tough chore of providing some essence to the role of Rivera. Pereyra doesn't give the audience a sense of the magnetism Rivera has with women with a deep sense of soul that would be mesmerizing to women or to those who saw him as a revolutionary. He has a monologue in each act to get beyond being a "moon" to Marcano’s "sun" but his words are too quickly gone from memory. Urrunaga is one cool woman in a body hugging black dress adorned with any number of fur coats, stoles and wraps which she throws about as if they were of little value. With her lush, almost lacquered black hair, pale cream skin, dark red lipstick and heels, when she walks into a scene, she simply collides with Marcano's peasant appearance.

The technical work for the production, especially the lighting by Ayun Fedorcha, is very appealing. With her lighting choices and the use of a large scrim to divide the set, there are several attention-grabbing scenes. The set itself is all a clutter, as it should be, with painter’s canvases, work spaces and easels. The overall central focus of the production design is a bed in the front center of the set. Hair dresser and make-up artist Lorenzo Gonzalez is to be congratulated for his work. And whoever located the fur coats, deserves kudos for some lovely selections, especially one very rich looking coat with a full collar that seemed to caress Urrunaga as she slowly ran her hands over the fur.

The Examiner

Teatro De La Luna offers passionate, poetic ‘Frida’

The production currently playing at Teatro De La Luna, “Frida Kahlo, the Passion,” neatly captures the agony and ecstasy of the great Mexican artist’s life. It portrays her admiration of the famous painter, her husband Diego Rivera, and the intense physical agony in which she lived as a result of a terrible bus accident.

Performed with only three actors, the stage at Teatro De La Luna becomes a cauldron of steamy emotions – lust, hatred, jealousy, fear – played out against the backdrop of political revolution that defined Kahlo’s and Rivera’s lives.

The elements

Director Mario Marcel has done a good job of injecting touches of symbolism into the production, implying the surrealism of Kahlo’s paintings. And once the play gets under way, it is full of enough lyricism to depict Kahlo’s life, which was richly romantic, and her works, which were vibrant and poetic.

By the beginning of the play, by Argentinean playwright Ricardo Halac, unfortunately dwells on one issue only – Frida’s jealousy over her husband’s extramarital affairs – reducing her to a one-sided character and ignoring her extraordinary strengths.

The ensemble

There is a nice distinction between Frida and Diego, who have rich inner lives, and Maria, Diego’s selfish mistress. The capable Peter Pereyra plays fallible, philandering Diego, who needs both women but whose devotion to Frida is sincere. Cynthia Urrunaga is good as the femme fatale Maria, whose primary concerns are to toss her glossy black hair, show off an astonishing number of coats and seduce Diego.

The play belongs to Anabel Marcano, however, who plays Frida. Dressed in the long skirts, embroidered blouses and hair ribbons now associated with the painter, Marcano brings fire, passion and humor to the role, while credibly expressing the intense physical and mental suffering in which Kahlo lived.

The finale

There is a famous self-portrait of Kahlo with a thorn necklace. The necklace appears in the play, as a memento from the uncomfortable planet Kahlo inhabited. “Frida Kahlo, the Passion,” is a telling reminder of what magnificent work Kahlo accomplished within that tortured, uncompromising world.

Sun Gazette

Teatro's 'Pasión' Delivers, But Mildly

There's nothing quite as impressive as one who is faced with personal trials and deals with them uncomplainingly.

Oops, we're talking here about Mexican artist and quasi-revolutionary Frida Kahlo, who wallowed to the point of revelry in the physical maladies and emotional torment of her life, and left them upon her death for posterity in more than 150 pieces of artwork that, since the 1980s, have received new acclaim from collectors and connoisseurs.

Teatro de la Luna's latest effort - “Frida Kahlo, La Pasión” - revisits the tempestuous side of the artist's life, in the U.S. premiere of a work by Argentinean playwright Ricardo Halac. Good performances and good pacing help overcome a script that is at times more mild than wild.

It chronicles the artist's tempestuous relationship with her on-again-off-again husband, Diego Rivera, and their collective connubiations (I think I made that word up, but it does the trick) with fiery superstar actress Maria Félix.

In life, each of the characters cheated on the other extensively, although in this show it is Rivera's infidelities that are the center of attention.

Teatro's effort spices up the task at hand by casting physically appealing actors in the roles of Kahlo (who in life was plain and single-browed) and Rivera (whose girth at times approached a zeppelin-like state).

The work of Teatro veterans Anabel Marcano (Kahlo) and Peter Pereyra (Rivera) is quite strong. But the real fun is reserved for Cynthia Urrunaga as Maria the actress. At turns nasty and sympathetic, her motivations are unclear throughout - is she a home-wrecker, or simply out to entertain herself? It's a solid job Urrunaga does.

(The show ends with a visit by Death, played in a gloriously creepy way by Cynthia Ortiz-Urrunaga, with help from the costume and lighting departments.)

Regular readers know that, for me, timing is everything, and, with a run time of just about two hours, this show made its point and departed the stage. Credit director Mario Marcel for keeping the action moving . . . and in using every available inch of space in the relatively tight confines of Gunston Arts Center Theatre II to do it.

Among the technical kudos, credit Rosita Bécker and Nucky Walder for costumes, Marcel for the set and Ayun Fedorcha for the lighting. It all added up to quality.

There was a full house for the opening Saturday matinee, which is a good thing, but also a reminder that, when crowded, Gunston II makes you feel like you are in the middle seat of cattle class in a jetliner headed off to Europe. I did not have the fortune of having waif-like creatures on either side of me, either.

The show is presented in Spanish, with English surtitles projected above the stage. Sometimes Teatro does this, sometimes it uses live translation; each works equally well.

Washington Blade

Fragmented composition



Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was never easily classified. “They thought I was a Surrealist,” she once said, “but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” And as a woman, the captivatingly eccentric, bisexual communist who twice married bigger-than-life muralist Diego Rivera and enjoyed love affairs with Leon Trostky and assorted females, was equally difficult to pigeonhole. One thing is for sure however – everything Kahlo did was marked by an overriding passion.

Arlington’s Teatro de la Luna is now exploring the artist’s fabled life with Argentine playwright Ricardo Halac’s “Frida Kahlo, la pasión,” a Spanish language production with easy-to-read English surtitles and gorgeous Mexican incidental music. Set in the rooms of Kahlo’s fanciful home, “la casa azul” (the blue house), Halac’s work focuses on the painter’s long and complicated relationship with Rivera and to a lesser extent the ongoing pain (and later miscarriages) resulting form injuries suffered in a horrific bus accident when she was a teen.

Halac’s Kahlo – played with the requisite intensity by Anabel Marcano – is obsessed with Diego (Peter Pereyra) and masochistically assumes the role of third wheel in his affair with another Mexican icon and Kahlo “frenemy,” film superstar Maria Felix (a low key but charming Cynthia Urrunaga). Kahlo’s fixation on Diego’s infidelities is at times a drag, but mercifully these rants are interrupted by memories of past joys and pains – gracefully introduced by director Mario Marcel.

As iconic Kahlo, Marcano looks spot on – she has the heavy, dark brows and wears the embroidered blouse and formless skirts, the then-uniform of indigenous women. Her pinned-up braids are laced with pink ribbon and at times a laurel of flowers graces her head.

With Pereyra’s thatch of wild hair and bohemian stride, the actor has ably and sensitively created a believable errant husband and conflicted artist who paints armed Mexican peasants for American millionaires, but nonetheless he’s woefully miscast as the big-bellied, frog-faced Rivera. The essential question of this story’s love triangle is what do these women see in this great “pachyderm,” this “toad?” The answer is Rivera’s Rabelaisian charm, talent and life force – and not Pereyra’s inescapable good looks.

In an otherwise elegantly staged production, an upstage scrim awkwardly divides casa azul’s interior from its courtyard (where Kahlo often imagines Diego and Maria to be wandering). A revelatory scene late in the play reveals the irritating sheer curtain’s true purpose: Just prior to the opening of her last art show in Mexico City, the invalid Kahlo, lying in a bed she has had transported to the gallery, spends some time alone with her paintings. While she touchingly speaks to her works as if they were her children about to go out into the world, enormous renditions of the artist’s deeply personal, fantastical paintings, including the very recognizable masterpiece “Self Portrait with Monkey 1940” (owned by Madonna), are projected on the scrim.

Washington Post

Rekindling Frida Kahlo, With Little Fuel
Teatro de la Luna's Idling 'Passion'
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, February 14, 2008; Page C05

The volcanic emotional life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo erupts with all the urgency of molasses in Teatro de la Luna's latest offering, "Frida Kahlo: La Pasión" ("Frida Kahlo: The Passion").

The play, by Argentine dramatist Ricardo Halac, lumbers dutifully back and forth along the arc of Kahlo's celebrated career, pondering her relationship with her none-too-faithful husband and fellow artist Diego Rivera, and recording her staggering tolerance for physical and psychological pain. It's a nuts-and-bolts chronicling that might strike American audiences as over-familiar, given the Kahlo cult of recent decades and pop-culture artifacts such as Julie Taymor's 2002 biopic, "Frida."

What is worse, director Mario Marcel's production moves at such a dawdling pace that watching it sometimes feels like watching paint dry. Heck, you are watching paint dry.

Marcel, also acting as set designer, has transformed the stage of the Gunston Arts Center's Theatre Two into a live-in painter's studio, full of canvases, brushes and paint canisters. A bed covered with a bright red Mexican textile stands near a cluttered table, and stretched out on each side wall are unfinished murals, depicting huge human shapes in Rivera's style. During the course of the show, an overalls-clad Diego (Peter Pereyra) adds a few seemingly real brushstrokes to these images.

The murals are not the only signs of the production's attention to visual detail. Costumers Rosita Becker and Nucky Walder and hair/makeup stylist Lorenzo Gonzólez have done a smashing job of giving Anabel Marcano the look of Kahlo's famous self-portraits. The actress gains those thick Kahlo eyebrows and lustrous braided-up hair, and she wears vivid folk-art colors that often recall specific artworks (a long green skirt mirrors an identical item in a 1931 Kahlo painting of herself and Rivera, for instance).

Designer Ayun Fedorcha's lighting primarily evokes the rich tones of Kahlo's paintings. During flashbacks and monologues, the illumination becomes harsher and bluer, and now and then -- adding a dreamlike quality -- it reveals a mysterious second studio space at the rear, behind a scrim.

Compared with these burnished stage pictures, the production's content seems wan. Halac devotes a significant portion of his focus to Kahlo and Rivera's relationship with the Mexican film star María Félix (Cynthia Urrunaga), with whom Rivera had an off-again, on-again affair. The tense tete-a-tetes between the two women -- who are simultaneously attracted to and repelled by each other -- can be vaguely interesting, but too often the situation feels like a generic love triangle.

While Urrunaga swans around in furs as a larger-than-life diva, Marcano and Pereyra bring a little more subtlety to their roles. Flashing spirited looks and limping resolutely (Kahlo, of course, was in a gruesome bus accident when young), Marcano emphasizes Kahlo's steely willpower without downplaying her suffering, and Pereyra's Rivera is aptly charming and full of himself.

But aside from a snazzy coup de theatre at the end, the scenes unfurl so sluggishly, peppered with so many pauses, that it is hard to maintain interest. Characters take their time glaring at each other, and drinking, and talking about Trotsky (with whom Kahlo reportedly had an affair), then there's a flashback, followed by more of the same.

André Breton once favorably compared Kahlo's art to "a ribbon tied around a bomb." If only that trademark explosiveness had found its way to this production.










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