Adoration of the Old Woman
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Adoration of the Old Woman: In brief
Raul Castillo (Looking) stars in a 2004 drama by magical-realist playwright José Rivera (References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot), which mixes together questions of love, death and Puerto Rican independence. Patricia McGregor directs for the Latino-oriented INTAR.
Adoration of the Old Woman: Theater review by Raven Snook
A coming-of-age romance, political debate, dysfunctional family drama and ghost story all rolled into one, José Rivera’s jam-packed play may not be every theatergoer’s cup of Bustelo. But his characters are so vibrant and their exchanges so poetic (and often profane), it’s hard not to get swept up in their searing saga.
Working in his preferred magical-realist style, the two-time Obie winner explores the concept of divides—cultural, linguistic, generational and ideological. Surly suburban New Jersey teen Vanessa (Carmen Zilles, captivating) is sent to stay with Doña Belen (Socorro Santiago), the ancient great-grandmother she’s never met who lives in the backwoods of Puerto Rico. Although they can’t understand each other (the play is performed almost entirely in English, but accents signal when characters aren’t speaking their native tongue), they begin to bond. Soon Vanessa finds herself falling for the island, her heritage and local activist Cheo (José Joaquín Peréz), who’s trying to prevent his brethren from voting in favor of making Puerto Rico the 51st state in the upcoming election.
Did I forget to mention Adoración (comely Danielle Davenport), the enraged spirit haunting Doña Belen’s bed, and Ismael (Raul Castillo from HBO’s Looking), the slick real-estate agent competing for Vanessa’s affections? Adoration of the Old Woman is certainly ambitious, epic in scope but with a folktale style laden with symbolism, and the committed cast gives uniformly strong performances under the guidance of Patricia McGregor. So while individual elements don’t work—the heated political arguments between Cheo and Ismael come off as preachy, and the eleventh-hour revelation is telegraphed—the heartfelt emotions consistently seduce.—Theater review by Raven Snook