Gracias por Todo / Thanks For Everything

DC Theatre Scene, by Rosalind Lacy
Washington Post, by Celia Wren

Loca la Juana / That Crazy Joan

DC Theatre Scene, by Rosalind Lacy
Hola Cultura, by Roman A. Santillan

Pasos al Azar / Random Steps

DC Theatre Scene, by Rosalind Lacy

Press Reviews

Gracias por Todo / Thanks For Everything

DC Theatre Scene

Washington’s Liveliest Theatre Website

At the lowest abyss of this emotional roller-coaster ride, there is a terrifying life-changing revelation. Yet the staging of this beautiful one-act monologue, written for Uruguayan actress, Nidia Telles, by playwright Julio César Castro, starts out innocently in a safety zone. An ornate, Victorian armoire stands ominously center stage, like a guarded secret.

The life-sized mirror on its door casts an eerie reflection on a beige carpet. The staging is simple, even stark. Piped-in bandoneon tango music adds an edgy, soul-wrenching dimension.

Teatro de la Luna’s 17th International Festival of Hispanic Theatre takes us to Uruguay. In past festivals, Uruguay has sent the cabaret artist Petru Valinsky, the stand-up comedian who gave us rioplatense satire, from Montevideo. In contrast, Nidia Telles is a winner of best actress awards worldwide for her roles, ranging from Shakespeare, Chekhov to Shaw. In Gracias por Todo/Thanks For Everything, Telles spills out a bizarre survival story of ups and downs, engaging us in a deep, cathartic journey.

When the lights come up, Nidia Telles, who plays the “woman,” with total body and soul connection, immediately breaks the fourth wall and engages our attention. “May God forgive me, but I just can’t keep going,” she cries, her expressive face anguished as she rubs her temples.

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Washington Post

‘Gracias por Todo’

Such a large wardrobe should contain more than a single hat.

An audience member might have entertained that thought, briefly, near the beginning of the wry Uruguayan solo show “Gracias por Todo (Thanks for Everything).” In the hour-long piece — which jump-started the 17th International Festival of Hispanic Theater in Arlington last weekend — a woman of a certain age looked back at her life and marriage. Looming behind Graciela (Nidia Telles), as she ranted and paced, was an armoire with a mirrored front. The reflective surface gave her a start whenever it caught her eye: She thought it made her look “deformed.”

When Graciela opened the mirrored door to reveal a single cap once worn by her husband, the headgear seemed dwarfed by the wardrobe’s empty reaches. As playwright Julio Cesar Castro’s tale unfurled, however, you began to feel that the piece of furniture was, in a way, jam-packed: At least symbolically, it seemed to contain Graciela’s wealth of conflicted but ultimately meaningful memories.

Telles is an expressive performer with well-pitched comic timing, and “Gracias por Todo” — which ran through Sunday, directed by Carlos Aguilera — allowed her to display, simultaneously, the comic and poignant aspects of her character’s situation. From the play’s first moments, when a spotlight revealed her in the act of agitatedly massaging her temples, dressed in a demure turtleneck dress, Telles’s Graciela radiated exasperation mellowed by wistfulness. Recalling her husband’s sexual eccentricities, and how mortifying it was to have their daughter find out about them, Graciela allowed that long-ago chagrin to flood back into her face.

And, as she lifted her hands half-heartedly in the air, reliving her brief affiliation with an evangelical-style church, her body language made clear just how much uneasiness that experience had burdened her with. The production’s frequent underscoring, which sounded like accordion music, added to the mood of pensiveness mixed with humor. (Uruguayan dramatist Castro, who died in 2003, wrote “Gracias por Todo” for Telles.)

An event mounted annually by Arlington’s Teatro de la Luna, the International Festival of Hispanic Theater continues through Nov. 23 with shows from Ecuador, Honduras, Spain, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and the United States. All the festival’s offerings for adults are in Spanish with live English dubbing. (Two of the children’s productions are bilingual; one is in Spanish only.)

Next up, Friday through Sunday, the festival welcomes Ecuadoran actor and writer Juana Estrella’s “Loca la Juana (That Crazy Joan),” about Joan of Arc, Pope Joan and Joan the Mad of Castile. Perhaps some theatrical establishment somewhere, someday, will mount a Joan repertory season, with Estrella’s play, George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” and Jean Anouilh’s “The Lark.” Now, that would be thinking outside the box — or, perhaps we could say, outside the wardrobe.

Wren is a freelance writer. 17th International Festival of Hispanic Theater In Spanish with live English dubbing (except for the children’s productions). Tickets: $30-35. (Tickets for children’s shows, $10-15 and free for children under 4.) Through Nov. 23 at Gunston Arts Center, Theater Two, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington, Va. Call 703-548-3092

© 2014 The Washington Post Company


Loca la Juana / That Crazy Joan

DC Theatre Scene

Washington’s Liveliest Theatre Website
by Rosalind Lacy

Women who make trouble make history. Once there was a female pope who turned the Vatican upside down, or so the legend goes, only one of the women Ecuadoran actress Joan Estrella came to celebrate in her sensational, stand-up comedy show.

Loca La Juana/That Crazy Joan packed a wallop last weekend at the Teatro de la Luna’s 17th International Festival of Hispanic Theater. This Gargantuan satire that Estrella wrote and performed, was an exposure of the historical bias against women. This powerhouse comedian, dressed in a sleek tux with white satin lapels, started with her given name. Joan, or Juana, inspired her to go for the juicy roles she reincarnated. Estrella did lightning fast changes. The costumes, displayed on stage, were grotesque works of art in themselves, appropriate for a Carnival or Mardi Gras. (designed by Juana Carpio & Enrique Vascones). Not only did she reveal her personal hang-ups and phobias but also she also delivered eye-openers about historical Joans, like Joan of Arc. Why were they called mad?

The Dauphin wanted to make 19-year old Joan a saint for political selfish reason. He wanted to gobble up land. The Dauphin chided Joan to be chaste, pure and virginal. But Joan desired an army, to become a saint as a warrior. So the Dauphin empowered her because he was greedy, drooling over the chance to grab back French territory from England. In one hysterical, wonderful moment, Estrella became Joan of Arc, bouncing up and down in a black-hooped skirt, waving a club, laughing madly, and riding into battle in a shiny breastplate. In the end, however, Joan of Arc was abused and burned alive because she was different, heard voices, and believed she spoke with God.

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Hola Cultura

DC´s Latino Cultural Hub
by Roman A. Santillan

Este ingenioso y divertido monólogo de la multilingüe Juana Estrella, empieza discurriendo los orígenes de Stand-up comedy americano -que a pesar de lo que se crea se originó en los Music Halls de Inglaterra en el siglo XVIII. Juana Estrella construye y reconstruye personajes femeninos de la historia europea medieval y renacentista para hablar de la problemática contemporánea femenina en Ecuador. El primer personaje seleccionado es Juana de Arco, que como se sabe a los diecisiete años convenció al rey Carlos VII de que expulsara a los ingleses de Francia, y encabezó el ejército francés en varias batallas. Personaje trágico al fin, Juana de Arco fue capturada por los borgoñones y entregada a los ingleses. Los clérigos la condenaron por herejía y el duque de Bedford la quemó viva en Ruan. Juana Estrella con acento afrancesado y palabras en francés aparece con una vestimenta como si estuviera montada a caballo. Otra, es Juana I de Castilla que fue llamada «la Loca», por una supuesta enfermedad mental ocasionada por los celos hacia su marido (Felipe el Hermoso) y el dolor que sintió tras su muerte. Su locura fue el argumento utilizado por su padre (Fernando el Católico) y por su hijo (Carlos I) para mantenerla encerrada en Tordesillas de por vida. Para esta Juana, la otra Juana, usa un acento español y viste como una dama de la corte, con un vestido muy apretado que muestra sus exuberantemente pechos. Otra Juana que hace su aparición en el escenario es la de la Papisa Juana, cuya leyenda relata la historia, es la de una mujer que habría ejercido el papado católico ocultando su verdadera sexualidad. Juana Estrella representa a la papisa, que no puede disimular su embarazo, al momento en que comienza a sufrir las contracciones del parto en medio de una procesión y da luz en público. En aquellos tiempos, un eclesiástico estaba encargado de examinar manualmente los atributos sexuales del nuevo pontífice a través de una silla perforada. Acabada la inspección, si todo era correcto, debía exclamar: «Duos habet et bene pendentes» (‘tiene dos y cuelgan bien’). Juana Estrella satiriza lo de la silla perforada, cuyo rito hablaba de la virilidad de los papas electos… y la de ciertas mujeres, ayer y hoy en día.


Pasos al Azar / Random Steps

DC Theatre Scene

Washington’s Liveliest Theatre Website

Pasos Azar/Random Steps takes us beyond the expected boundaries of limitations and expels stereotypes. The Gunston II stage is stripped naked to its cement walls with only strip spot-lights glaring down on scattered costumes among suitcases. The stark, barren stage hits us like a splash of cold water and becomes a metaphor for the nothingness we face. Pasos al Azar/Random Steps, is the first three-act play for Angeles Páez, an experienced television and film actress in Spain. It is a contemporary tragicomedy without intermission, that breaks all the rules of traditional theater. Director Rolando San Martín is a risk-taker, as is this budding playwright.

It is 1640, the Golden Age of Spanish Theatre, and three women are alone on the Spanish moors. They have been touring with their leader, Salazar, who after a mysterious illness is dead. Without a leader, the women argue about what to do next and, unable to agree, turn against each other.

Páez, a statuesque blond, dressed in modern-day, rehearsal outfit of black shorts and a scoop-necked top, flamboyantly portrays Teresa, the lead character, by pounding the stage’s cement wall and laughing hysterically. At one point in a frenzy of grief, Teresa cries out that she wants to die. How can three single women journey through life without Salazar, their paternalistic guide?

Director San Martín utilizes the full stage space. The three actors are terrific, perfect embodiments of lost souls in a meaningless universe. Without a male protector, which they are conditioned to expect, they’re despondent. Actress Elena Seguí, who darts back and forth in futile movement, is a stand-out for her emotional range. Raquel Guerrero, as Rufina, costumed in black tights, and a grey, ripped tunic, impresses us with her pantomimic, total body physicality, expressing despair. She repeatedly asks: “What are we going to do with the body?” At moments, she crawls randomly across the stage. Welcome to their hell.

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