Funny, scary tale of perilous obsession
Lorena Diaz as Senora 3 (from left), Dana Cruz as Alicia and Yunuen Pardo as Carolina in “Enfrascada (Subtitle: A Hoodoo Comedy of Jarrying Proportions).” | Photo by Anthony Aicardi
‘Enfrascada (A Hoodoo Comedy of Jarring Proportions)’
Through May 12
16th Street Theater, 6420 16th St., Berwyn
7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays; through May 12
(708) 795-6704 or visit www.16thstreettheater.org
Updated: April 17, 2012 8:23PM
To the uninitiated, the phenomena of senoras may seem like so much hocus pocus. But for many, there’s no denying the eerie aptitudes some of these wise women seem to wield, a mix of clairvoyance and otherworldy powers that science simply cannot explain.
Before you scoff, ask yourself: Have you ever avoided a crack in the sidewalk? Jostled to catch a bride’s bouquet? Crossed your fingers for luck? Knocked on wood? Maybe you aren’t as utterly logical as you’d like to believe.
With “Enfrascada (A Hoodoo Comedy of Jarring Proportions),” playwright Tanya Saracho manages the nifty feat of delving the supernatural world of modern-day senoras while also telling the all-too-relatable tale of a young woman who loses herself while obsessing over a no-good man. It’s also an ode to loyalty, true friendships and their power to endure even when everything else in one’s life is crumbling.
Directed by Keira Fromm and featuring a terrific all-female ensemble, “Enfrascada” (the title translates loosely to either “jarred” or “engrossed”) is at once thought-provoking, quite funny, and a little scary. It is also a cautionary tale for anyone who has ever spiralled down the dangerous wormhole that comes from single-minded pursuit of something or someone not remotely worth the effort.
“Enfrascada” takes a while to get going, opening with a lengthy scene of close friends gathered for a girls night out at an outdoor concert somewhere in Wisconsin. There’s a lot of banter as we meet the outspoken, unabashedly sexy playa Yesenia, (Yadira Correa, perhaps one of five women in the world entire who can rock a pair of Jeggings), the well-heeled newlywed Carolinla (Yunuen Pardo), and the creative, career-oriented Alicia (Dana Cruz).
After too much nattering on about bottled water and other prolonged scene-setting, “Enfrascada” finally cuts to the quick as Alicia phones home only to learn there’s another woman there with her partner of years.
Initially skeptical (to say the least), Alicia finally agrees to visit a Senora after falling into a depression so deep she’s willing to try just about anything to get her man back, and thus, she believes, regain control of her life.
Saracho deftly depicts Alicia’s harrowing progression into the darker corners of hoodoo. Visiting four senoras, she moves from the comparatively benign power of a “honey jar” (fill a jar with honey, brown sugar and cinnamon sticks, write your beloved’s name on a scrap of paper, place the paper in the jar and shake daily), to expensive and elaborate spells that could lead to damaging, real-life consequences, like breaking into a cemetery to leave offerings at an infant’s grave.
Along the way, Alicia exhausts her bank account, jeopardizes her career and alienates her friends as the quest to get the man becomes more and more desperate.
The senoras (each played by Lorena Diaz) become increasingly unnerving as Alicia goes reaches deeper into the shadows of the metaphysical world. The honey jar proffered by the first senora is one thing. The exorcism/abortion performed by the last senora is quite another.
Diaz does a memorable job with all four women, moving from comic to genuinely scary with chameleon-like transformations. Her strongest performance is in the haunting scene of the last senora and her reluctant acquiescence to Alicia’s insistence that she’ll pay any price to destroy the woman who took her lover.
Fromm gets uniformly excellent performances from her cast. Pardo stands out as a girl who appears to be living the life of a princess but whose reality is no fairy tale. As the epigram-spouting roommate Alicia moves in with after losing her lover, Patricia Lavery is a loopy delight. And Correa lights up the stage as the outspoken, up-for-anything wench any woman would be fortunate to call friend.
Everything is knitted effectively together by sound designer Harrison Adams’ often just-on-the-threshold-of-audibility canvas of unquiet murmurs and disquieting undercurrents. Kurt Sharp’s set is an atmospheric progression of flickering altars, each one a bit more intense than the last.
In all, “Enfrascada” tells a wholly engrossing story of powerlessness, empowerment and the often mysterious ways women wrestle with both.