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Las Hermanas Padilla at Chicago Fusion Theatre | Theater review

Nine sisters-in-law, widowed or soon to be by war, forge a different kind of family in Tony Meneses’s drama.

 (Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.)
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Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.

Las Hermanas Padillas at Chicago Fusion Theatre

 (Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.)
2/9
Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.

Las Hermanas Padillasat Chicago Fusion Theatre

 (Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.)
3/9
Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.

Las Hermanas Padillasat Chicago Fusion Theatre

 (Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.)
4/9
Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.

Las Hermanas Padillasat Chicago Fusion Theatre

 (Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.)
5/9
Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.

Las Hermanas Padillasat Chicago Fusion Theatre

 (Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.)
6/9
Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.

Las Hermanas Padillasat Chicago Fusion Theatre

 (Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.)
7/9
Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.

Las Hermanas Padillasat Chicago Fusion Theatre

 (Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.)
8/9
Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.

Las Hermanas Padillasat Chicago Fusion Theatre

 (Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.)
9/9
Photograph: John W. Sisson Jr.

Las Hermanas Padillasat Chicago Fusion Theatre

“A family can be made in all sorts of ways,” says the widowed Lucy (Jackie Alamillo), waiting with eight of her sisters-in-law for husbands who will never return home. As their men die on the battlefield, these women find comfort in each other, creating a bond beyond biology. Tony Meneses uses this rapport to explore the psychological effects of war in his 2010 drama, forcing the sisters to confront their tragic losses and find hope for the future.

Despite the Mexican setting, New York playwright Meneses’s story achieves universality thanks to its expansive themes and Juan Castañeda’s diverse cast. Noël Dominique Straley’s adobe set design evokes the arid environment and provides a clear canvas for Liviu Pasare’s ethereal projections. While the latter is used effectively for the script’s mystical elements, higher-resolution images would help the projections seem less superfluous.

The impact of the husbands’ deaths could be more fully realized, with the major exception of Alejandra’s (Susan Myburgh) devastating labor scene. Erica Cruz Hernandez plays her motherly character Chave with a grounded subtlety that’s swept away when she gets her own tragic news. When the all-female ensemble connects as a whole, as in a scene in which the women send messages to unknown soldiers, the play becomes a poignant testament to the strength of family formed through experience rather than blood.

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