An intricately constructed solo piece offers a devastating look into the wave of murders in Juarez, Mexico.
Audiences who saw the Goodman Theatre’s stage adaptation of 2666 earlier this year will be at least somewhat prepared for the subject matter of this play, presented as part of the Greenhouse Theater Center’s Solo Celebration! Those who skipped 2666 might need to steel themselves against the waves of abject horror that await them. Isaac Gomez’s The Way She Spoke: A Docu-Mythologia concerns the systemic abduction, rape and murder of hundreds women in Juarez, Mexico over the course of several decades. There are probably some who won’t see it because of that subject matter, but they should reconsider. This thing is a triumph.
As its title suggests, the show is based on hundreds of interviews Gomez conducted with women and men in Juarez, but it’s not straight documentary. The show is a play-within-a-play, with actress Karen Rodriguez playing herself participating in a reading of the script, and an imagined Gomez sitting silently in the house. Having not read the play before she arrived, Rodriguez is surprised to discover that it’s a one-woman show. (The device would be too convenient if not for the fact that it’s 100% believable.) In acting out the script, Rodriguez plays Gomez himself, as well as the women and men he interviews and who guide him around the city. She even plays a literal saint—one who sadly has little to offer. As all of them—most of all herself— Rodriguez is heart-wrenching.
The play has a dreamlike quality, with Rodriguez moving between herself and Gomez and the women of Juarez and back again, that could get away from many directors. Luckily, Laura Baker’s assured direction keeps everything in hand, doing wonderful justice to both Rodriguez and Gomez. Despite its surface simplicity, The Way She Spoke is actually unspeakably complex, juggling not just disparate characters and points of view but also a whole rat’s nest of moral and philosophical questions. It’s as much about the women who died as all the people who are left to reckon with those deaths. And the play lets no one off the hook.
Greenhouse Theater Center. By Isaac Gomez. Directed by Laura Baker. With Karen Rodriguez. Running time: 1hr 5mins; no intermission.