Tuesday, September 11, 2018

GALA THEATRE PREMIERS
     COMO AGUA PARA CHOCOLATE
            LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE

            L to R. Inés Domínguez del Corral (front) and Karen Morales (back)
 Photo Daniel Martinez.
GALA Theatre  serves up a feast for all senses with its season opener Como agua para chocolate/Like Water for Chocolate.  
GALA’s cast and crew magically brings to life this classic with a realistic Mexican home transformed in to a magical place during the time of the Mexican Revolution.  The  eye catching focus is on the ceramic counter to prepare food, complete with grills underneath, that is also used as a table for eating, sometimes as a bed.  This image combines all the necessary nutrients for human life— food and love —in one.
Mariana Fernández’s scenic design thus provides the perfect setting for where we first encounter Nacha, the family cook and Chencha, the maid, mincing onions on the counter which turns into the table where Mama Elena, Tita’s cruel controlling mother, gives birth to her third and ill fated daughter.  
The first aroma of minced onions that make everyone cry will be  Tita’s legacy of a life of tears.
Luz Nicolás as Mama Elena and Teresa Yenque as Nacha portray powerful women, each in her own realm, one Tita’s physical mother and one her spiritual mother.  Karen Morales as Chencha, the maid remains through out, steady and sturdy, through joy and sorrow.
Tita whose talent for blending her emotions at the moment  into her cuisine is beautifully played by Inez Dominguez del Corral. Moyenda Kulemeka’s costumes suit each  character perfectly with a dress for Tita which evokes her wistful loveliness.
Yaremis Félix as feisty Gertrudis and  Guadalupe Campos as somber Rosaura play Tita’s two sisters  How they embrace their lives and their fates in the struggles within the family is telling of the diverse struggles of the nation at a time when traditional mores clash with revolutionary ideals.
Christopher Annas-Lee’s lighting design  for entering the dream world of the characters and Nate Collard’s projections add to the spooky atmosphere necessary to convey the magical story for Nacha and Mama Elena to make their after death interferences in to Tita’s life.
Peter Pereyra is Pedro, the cowardly but forever faithful love of Tita and  Delbis Carona is her devoted suitor Dr. John Brown.  Both are good men and this is enough to make one wonder about  what choice Tita will make in the end after her years of devotion and frustration when Pedro is finally free to marry her.
(So believable is this emotional struggle, that as the end approached,  someone in the audience whispered  very loudly, “Oh, no! Don’t go back to him! ”)
Fight Choreographer Jon Ezra Rubin did an amazing job because most of the scenes are not the usual of men in armor battling with weapons. Rather it is a mother kicking her daughter on the floor and then herself beaten by life, struggling as a cripple, that is most real.  (Amazingly, all actors at the after show party looked quite well.)
Like food, music fills with emotions.  Music and sound design  by David Crandall  was perfectly on track for those moments.  
Kudos also to Karen Romero as voice of the narrator,  Tony Koehler for Property,   Director Olga Sanchez and Technical Director Devin Mahoney.
Many will remember the movie, or have read the book. This United States premier of a staged version brings  all these beloved characters and recipes back—but up close with the magic and realism in the way only live theater can.

WANT TO KNOW MORE
Como agua para chocolate/Like Water for Chocolate
Adapted for the stage by Garbi Losada based on the internationally best-selling novel by Laura Esquivel.
From September 6 through October 7, 2018  at GALA Theatre, 3333 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20010. 
For Tickets call (202) 234-7174, or visit www.galatheatre.org