By Dee Jae Cox (Photos by Paul Hayashi)

It is often said that theatre is a reflection of (and on) society, culture and ideas.  It promotes critical thinking and raises awareness of topics we may know little about.  It inspires and exemplifies the best and worst of who we are.  Regardless of origin, it should give insight to the human condition.  The unfortunate quandary that American theatre faces even in 2019, is that eighty percent of the stage plays that get produced are written by men and showcase the world from a male perspective.

Modern theatre needs stories that praise the uniqueness of a woman’s body without the expectations of perfection.  Stories that give insight to the everyday lives of real women, with real fears, hopes and real relationships spilling out and across the stage in big, bold and beautiful ways.

Josefina Lopez’s 1990 hit show, “Real Women Have Curves,” has recently been updated to include current immigration realities and is being presented by Desert Theatreworks at the Indio Performing Arts Center.  This play about a group of Latina women is honest storytelling at its best.

Real Women Have Curves, tells the story of Ana Garcia, (Kaylyn Bernal) a seventeen-year-old Latina working in her sister’s small sewing factory in East Los Angeles, while dreaming of college and a life free of the stereotypes that surround her.  Ana, her mother Carmen, (Ramona Larson) her sister Estela, (Selene Canchola,) their co-workers Rosalie, (Arissa Avila) and Pancha (Adriana Reyes) all work to meet impossible deadlines in a literal sweat factory, sewing beautiful dresses for other women to wear.  All but Estela have green cards, but they live in fear of ICE agents and arrests. In the midst of this all too real story, we meet a group of women who laugh and cry, talk about body images and women’s roles. Old ideas versus new desires.  And in the process give insights to a segment of the population that is too often ignored in American story telling. 

Lopez’s script is raw and naked and one of the most human experiences to be revealed on a stage.  Bernal is so likeable and relatable in her role as Ana, a young girl who yearns to break free of fear and oppressive gender roles.  Her performance perfectly conveys this character’s struggles and frustrations while showcasing her youth and dreams.  Larson gives an outstanding portrayal of Carmen, a mother who wants to protect her children while inadvertently allowing generations of oppression to bind them.  Canchola is touching and heartbreaking in her performance of Estela, a woman who lives in fear of deportation and yet dares to fly in the face of a hostile culture and start her own business.  Avila, (Rosalie) and Reyes, (Pancha) portray the beauty of common women in their struggle to keep a low profile and work hard. 

I loved Rebecca Havely’s direction.  She breathed beautiful life into a script that is filled with every human emotion.  Her staging allowed the love, fear, laughter, dreams and hopes to be conveyed in every movement these characters took.  And Ron Phillips-Martinez’s set design perfectly conveyed the hot, claustrophobic environment of the sweat shop. Michelle Mendoza’s costumes beautifully depicted the mood and the emotions of this story.  From simple work clothes, to the more elegant dresses, showcasing the progression of the characters fulfillment.

Theatre should be about education, entertainment, enlightenment, tears and laughter, dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled.  This play has it all.  Allow yourself the treat of seeing a different kind of story from a new perspective with awe inspiring insights.  See Desert Theatreworks production of Josefina Lopez’s, “Real Women Have Curves.”

Real Women Have Curves, can be seen through May 19th, at The Indio Performing Arts Center, located at 45175 Fargo Street, Indio, CA.

For show and ticket information: http://www.dtworks.org/

Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer.  She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project www.losangeleswomenstheatreproject.org   www.palmspringstheatre.com

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