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Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.Coraz �n de Manzana at Mortar Theatre Company

Corazón de Manzana at Mortar Theatre Company | Theater review

Dana Lynn Formby attempts to connect dots across borders in addressing the ongoing crisis in Juárez, Mexico.


Since 1993, hundreds of young women, many of them factory girls, have been killed in Juárez, Mexico. Whether from official corruption or indifference, neither the local authorities nor the factory owners have shown much interest in solving the cases. Meanwhile, the rest of the continent continues to gobble up the assembly plants’ output at low prices.

The message here—that the lives of a bunch of poor brown women are as cheap and dispensable as the merchandise they produce—has understandably pissed off playwright Dana Lynn Formby. Her play clearly means to take Americans and Canadians to task for their complacency. In alternating scenes, we get to know three families, one from each NAFTA country. In Ontario, a mother struggles to combat her daughter’s body image issues and ready her for college. In Utah, a women’s studies professor researches the Juárez femicide as her blue-collar sister and young niece grapple with money woes.

Both sets of problems pale in comparison, however, to the life-and-death matters on the Mexican border. To depict the killings, Formby adopts the style of an allegorical folk tale, devising a mysterious, Pied Piper–like figure (Joshua Volkers) who lures a little girl (Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel) from her bedroom, sending her mother into anguish (harrowingly conveyed by Erica Cruz Hernandez). Relying on magical realism and choreographed movement, the scenes between Volkers and Gonzalez-Cadel are at once disturbing and eerily beautiful. Unfortunately, Formby’s themes fail to resonate across all three story lines, and the intended connection between them never quite convinces. By the end, Mexico still feels worlds away.


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