The very funny “Real Women Have Curves,” by Josefina Lopez, had its opening night on Sunday, Sep. 13, at the Pasadena Playhouse, under the direction of Seema Sueko. This is a revamped version of the work that Lopez originally wrote in 1988 and that was made into a film by the same title in 2002.
Set in a small factory in East L.A., “Real Women” tells the story of five women working to meet an impossible deadline to keep their sewing factory from going under. In the process, they learn about the importance of loving themselves and supporting one another.
The five actresses in charge of the action are Blanca Araceli as Carmen, Cristina Frias as Carmen’s older daughter Estela, Santana Dempsey as Carmen’s younger daughter Ana, Diana DeLaCruz as Rosali, and Ingrid Oliu as Pancha. (Nicaraguan-born Oliu was also in the cast of the “Real Women” movie.) The ladies are funny, seemingly completely comfortable with one another. They switch back and forth from English to Spanish without losing anything in the translation and immerse you deep into their world.
The Playhouse’ stage was convincingly turned into a sewing shop, with all sorts of machines, fabrics, and table lamps. The audience faces the inside of the shop, and there are windows and a door in the back of the stage that open to an imaginary outdoors. The ladies costumes go from simple, as they are expected on women who are working long-hour days, to fabulous, as they are, at one point, transformed into vixens. The music contributes to the Latin flair, as bits of cumbia, salsa, and other Latin genres accompany scene changes and breaks.
This is the first Latino show that the Playhouse has produced as part of its Diversity Project. It is beautifully done and it will be enjoyed by all audiences, but it is a must for the Latino audience and in particular for folks of Mexican ancestry. Josefina Lopez is a gifted playwright who was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and migrated with her family to the U.S. as a five year old. She has been a presence in the Los Angeles theater scene for years, often presenting plays that are relevant to Boyle Heights and the surrounding communities at the theater that she founded, CASA 0101.
I first saw “Real Women” at CASA 0101, I don’t remember the exact year but probably about a decade and a half ago. Later I also watched the film. This version at the Playhouse has been updated to integrate what is now part of our daily life – Instagram, phones, selfies, and so forth. The gist of the play remains, though, and it is about more than loving one’s body – it’s about recognizing the correlation between struggle, work, and success; about relationships, dreams, and family; and about accepting one’s self.
“Real Women” will perform through October 4, 2015. Tuesday through Friday evenings at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 to $85 by calling (626) 356-7529 or visiting http://www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org
Dena Burroughs photo