ARLINGTON – Teatro de la Luna’s “Mujeres al Poder”
(“Kick-Butt Women”) feels like commedia dell’arte at
times, with a cast of characters that are almost
caricatures. There is the crass, arrogant Count Leofric,
governor of Coventry (Peter Pereyra); his beautiful wife,
Lady Godiva (Anabel Marcano); the clever maid Guendolina
(Marcela Ferlito Walder); three Burghers (Mario Álvarez,
Willie Padín and Alex Alburqueque) and a chaplain (Alex
Yet it doesn’t take long to establish that the subject of
this marvelously rich, imaginative satire of medieval
times is not the relationship between lecherous Leofric
and his frosty wife, but is in fact about how myths are
created and given longevity.
Adapted from Jean Canolle’s “Lady Godiva” by director Mario
Marcel, “Kick-Butt Women” begins with Leofric —
portrayed as a mean-spirited ninny by Pereyra — devising
a scheme to allow him to see his wife naked. Lady
Godiva, it seems, is totally devoted to her charities
and has no time for her husband.
But after she assents to her husband’s challenge to ride
naked through the town, she is transformed, and with a
little help from her maid, she becomes a woman on a
Marcano is delightful as the naïve Lady Godiva, whose
horseback ride awakens her senses. One of the most
important characters in this piece is Guendolina, Lady
Godiva’s maid, as she is the one who shows Lady Godiva
the way to becoming a living legend. Walder is powerful
in this pivotal role as the one who knows how to make
Alburqueque is entertaining as the ladies’ tailor, Peeping
Tom, the only person in town who looked at Lady Godiva
as she rode. The groveling, self-serving Burghers are
humorously portrayed by Álvarez and Padín. López-Montañez
plays the chaplain as a pious, blinkered automaton.
Teatro de la Luna seems to be as much a family as it is a
theater company, and the closeness of the actors shows
in the tight-knit ensemble work on stage. Marcel directs
with wit and intelligence, making this satirical
“Kick-Butt Women” a breezy, thought-provoking romp.
'Mujeres': Godiva, All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, February 25, 2009; Page C08
To dispense with
the big question first: No, there is no onstage nudity
in "Mujeres al Poder" ("Kick-Butt Women"), the riff on
the Lady Godiva legend that's the latest offering from
Arlington's Teatro de la Luna. Or
to be more exact, there's no physical nudity: This
intriguing if somewhat goofy-looking production does
flaunt 2 1/2 hours of naked philosophizing, draped in
only the gauziest of theatrical disguises.
In its U.S.
premiere, "Mujeres al Poder" is Teatro de la Luna
Artistic Director Mario Marcel's adaptation of "Lady
Godiva," a satire by the French writer Jean Canolle
(born in 1919). Published in a French-language theater
journal in 1958 -- after the play's small-scale private
debut in Paris -- the script loosely follows the
traditional story of a medieval blueblood's in-the-buff
heroics: When the tyrannous English noble Leofric (Peter
Pereyra) sneers that he'll lower his subjects' taxes
only if his virtuous wife Godiva (Anabel Marcano) rides
a horse naked through the city of Coventry, she bravely
takes him up on his offer.
As rendered by
Marcel (who has staged Canolle's script previously in Argentina and Guatemala), the tale provides a
framework for a witty, revisionist drama of ideas,
reminiscent of George Bernard Shaw or Jean Anouilh's "Antigone."
Godiva's equestrian outing upends her conservative views
on society, spirituality and the universe. "I want roses
around the doors of the convents!" she exclaims on her
return. "We must curl the hair of the abbesses, lower
the necklines of the nuns, shorten their flannel
dresses... Why such austerity around God? Is God not in
the sun? Is God not the sun itself?"
aristocrat revels in her "Aha!" moment, her canny maid
Guendolina (an energetic Marcela Ferlito Walder) turns
spinmeister, aiming to shape her mistress's current fame
and future legacy -- a task that's complicated by the
antics of Peeping Tom (Alex Albuquerque, radiating
appropriate callowness), a local who has relished ogling
the nude Godiva. As the characters banter, the play
becomes a meditation on Puritanism, feminism, national
identity, organized religion, the role of government
and, above all, humanity's fondness for turning ragged
historical reality into elegantly tailored myth.
Partly hampered by
budget considerations, no doubt, Marcel's leisurely
staging lacks the flair of the ingenious script. The
actors' movements can be static, awkwardly underscoring
the play's talkiness. And some farcical touches seem too
broad: To illustrate Leofric's boorishness, for
instance, Pereyra does some daft miming of flatulence
and the like.
costumes, created by Rosita Becker, Cecile Heatley and
the one-named Loona, look a little as if they've been
pilfered from a high school's Renaissance fair. The
attire particularly hampers Pereyra and Marcano, winning
performers who add zest to so many Teatro de la Luna
shows: It's hard to appreciate, or even detect, the
pair's acting when the former wears a ludicrous
puff-sleeved doublet and black fright wig, and the
latter, initially, dons a dorky pale-blue bonnet and
matching, flesh-enveloping dress.
The serviceable set
surrounds Leofric's throne with suggestive contours of
walls and towers. In a snazzy touch before the lights
rise on the first scene, these architectural outlines
radiate a blue neon glow, as if hinting at the play's
themes of image-doctoring and celebrity. Who knew that
the saga of Lady Godiva, disrobed icon of the Middle
Ages, could be so relevant to the era of Facebook and
Mujeres al Poder
(Kick-Butt Women), adapted
by Mario Marcel from Jean Canolle's "Lady Godiva."
Direction, set and sound design by Marcel; lighting
design, Ayun Fedorcha. With Mario Álvarez, Willie Padín
and Alex López-Montañez; 2 1/2 hours; in Spanish with
English surtitles (translation by David Bradley).
Through March 7 at Gunston Arts
Center, Theater Two, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington.
© 2009 The Washington Post Company