Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Real Women Have Curves
Set in a small sewing factory in Los Angeles, the play follows the story of five Latina women as they face the dilemmas of modern life. However, their struggles go beyond work, love, and societal expectations, since they are constantly on guard that any noise coming from outside their shop could be an immigration officer coming to take one of them away.
The play premiered in 1990 and the script is serious but also infused with humor and cultural nuances, allowing it to tackle the weighty subjects with a light touch. Along with the always possible threat of being deported, López confronts societal expectations placed on these women, particularly those that focus on their heritage and their weight. López's smartly crafted drama allows the action to unfold realistically, which lets us naturally see how the women are connected to each other, with good pacing and authentic dialogue. As the five characters talk about the challenges of beauty, body image, relationships, and the pursuit of dreams, we also see from the witty dialogue and poignant moments how familial bonds, friendships, and embracing one's true self can be empowering.
Bertha Alicia Cortes' direction perfectly captures the pressures, passion, and vulnerability of the characters and their circumstances with excellent pacing and staging that makes great use of William Symington's realistic, rundown-factory set. The play is an ensemble piece and the cast all deliver detailed and natural performances that connect with the audience.
As Ana, the youngest of the women who just graduated high school, Leslie Rosalinda Apolinar creates a strong depiction of a smart teen who is ambitious and argumentative but also uncertain about her future. Ruth Anna is great as Estela, Ana's older sister who owns and runs the dress factory and the only one of the five women who didn't recently become an American resident. Estela is struggling with many issues, both personal and professional, and Anna is wonderful balancing the character's desire to fulfill a large dress order which will, hopefully, get her creditors off her back, while also being constantly mindful that any moment could be her last in America.
Paola Castellanos is superb as Carmen, Ana and Estela's mother who works at the factory and often speaks her mind, which usually comes off as confrontational. She has fantastic comic timing and creates a believable depiction of an older woman who is wise and witty but also has her own issues she's dealing with. Isabella Ava Dorrington and Keymi Crystal Guillen create fleshed out depictions of Pancha and the Rosali, respectively, who we find have secrets they are hiding. The chemistry among the cast members is authentic and palpable, which creates a genuine sense of emotion and sisterhood.
In addition to Symington's smart set design, the colorful lighting by Autumn Ford, the evocative sound design by Nettie Woodward, and Ivy Angle's props help create a realistic East Los Angeles run-down factory environment with its fabrics, sewing machines, and work equipment. Leslie Rosalinda Apolinar's costumes reflect the characters' personalities and culture as well as helping to flesh out the plot with the many copies of the same dress the women are creating.
With performances that capture the spirit of these intriguing characters with heart and authenticity, GCU's production is a charming crowd-pleaser. It also serves as a poignant social commentary on body positivity and challenging unrealistic beauty standards while emphasizing the importance of embracing and accepting yourself as you are. Those are all important and empowering messages, which shows that this 33-year-old play still resonates and connects today.
Real Women Have Curves runs through February 11, 2024, at Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre, 3300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix AZ. For ticket and information, please visit events.gcu.edu or call 602-639-8880
Director: Bertha Alicia Cortes