The relationship between mother and daughter is a common theme in theatre. “Good Cuban Girls” by Iraisa Ann Reilly, poignantly explores it in this world premiere directed by José Avilés.
“Good Cuban Girls” plays at the Bob and Selma Horan Studio Theatre at the Hamilton Family Arts Center and was produced by Teatro del Sol, currently in residence at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia, PA.
The performance last night, October 10, 2019, appeared to be sold out. That in itself says a lot since it was a Thursday evening. Midweek shows don’t sell as well as the weekend. Audience members were graciously offered a free beverage before the show, which was a nice touch.
Having seen several productions by Teatro del Sol and La Fábrica, it is wonderfully evident that the extra support provided by the Arden for “Good Cuban Girls” has helped to create a professional show with high production values and outstanding characterizations.
The set design by Justin Romeo is nothing short of beautiful, in its detail and efficiency. This is identifiably a middle class home on the United States with Cuban-American touches, such as a small altar to the saints on a end table. Moveable extensions delineate Marisol’s bedroom and the park by the river.
Sound design by director José Avilés employs Cuban and Cuban-American music, including familiar tunes by Celia Cruz and Gloria Esteban. In addition, water sounds, telenovela audio in Spanish and other noises add depth to the mood and support the action on stage. Costumes by Tanaquil Marquez and light design by Amanda Jensen, add to the realism.
As the lead role, Marisol, Lorenza Bernasconi communicates a wide range of emotions and is totally convincing. Her Spanish and unaccented English are perfect since Marisol grew up in the United States speaking Spanish at home with her grandmother and sometimes with her mother. She used English outside the home in school and with “gringo” friends.
Yajaira Paredes shines as la Abuela. She expertly conveys an elderly woman who doesn’t have much time left. Changes in gait and posture complete the transformation. To top it off, she has a lot of the funny lines in the play. The ensemble is rounded out with veteran actor Melissa Sabater as Caridad, Marisol’s mother, and Frank Nardi Jr. as Todd, Marisol’s boyfriend.
I found the direction by Avilés to be exceptional. Act I is intense and I could feel the tension in the home and the stress and confusion of the characters. Movements, glances and gestures were varied, with some large and dynamic, while others were more nuanced, enhanced by exquisite timing.
Overall, this is a polished rendering of the world premiere of “Good Cuban Girls.” I highly recommend it to Spanish speakers and learners for its humor, drama and superb acting.
Running time: Approximately two hours including a 10 minute intermission.
There are a few more show this weekend. Call the Arden Box office at 215-922-1122 or visit their website for tickets and more information: teatrodelsol.org