Edit ModuleShow Tags

Three Generations of Women Resist the State in 'The Madres'

1970s Argentina takes center stage in Moxie Theatre’s powerful world premiere play


Published:

María González and Sandra Ruiz.| Photo: Daren Scott

After seeing The Madres at Moxie Theatre, I understand why someone living in a totalitarian surveillance state would begin to “doublethink,” Orwell’s old chestnut about believing two contradictory ideas at once—sometimes it’s a survival mechanism.

Belén (Laura Jimenez) has been missing for three months, one of tens of thousands of suspected leftists or other dissidents who “disappeared” during Argentina’s rule by military junta in the late 1970s. Her mother, Carolina (Sandra Ruiz), marches every week in front of the presidential mansion as one of Las Madres, all of whom have missing children. Carolina refuses to accept the state’s lies and stay silent about what’s really happening to them, which troubles her own mother, Josephina (María González), to no end.

Josephina’s way of coping with how the coup has transformed her country and her family is as heart-wrenching as it is fascinating. She acknowledges the virtual certainty that Belén is in prison, and concedes that there must be a way to reach her, even bring her back—but at the same time, both to keep them from drowning in despair and from attracting unwanted attention, she implores Carolina to speak and act as if she really is just “vacationing in Paris.”

González is a dynamo; tasked with keeping the peace among a group of people constantly at risk of unraveling, her voice and gestures are as precise, controlled, and elegant as a conductor. Stephanie Alison Walker’s script, a rolling world premiere, loses some of its power and verges on didactic when its characters are finally given the chance to argue freely about the political conflict, but she and directors Maria Patrice Amon and Jennifer Eve Thorn have a keen sense for when and how much comic relief is appropriate to keep everyone grounded as living, feeling people rather than mouthpieces. Indeed, the entire first act—when these feelings must be kept at a whisper because no one’s sure whom they can trust—is deliciously tense and spellbinding.

John Padilla and Markus Rodriguez play the local priest and Belén’s childhood friend turned soldier, respectively; sharp examples of longstanding relationships that have been warped and tainted with suspicion. The former’s apologetic complacency and the latter’s entitled, simmering rage undeniably speak to the contemporary moment, and this pointed relevancy sometimes rises a little too close to the surface for my personal taste. (Then again, getting fired up is half the fun of coming to Moxie.) There are times when the cast nearly steps on one another to deliver all the dialogue they’ve been given—by contrast, an extended silence during an otherwise innocuous game is the play’s most powerful moment—but it all builds toward an innervating finale that will have you ready to take to the streets, join hands, and shout for justice.


Through June 10. Tickets at moxietheatre.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

'Dr. Seuss's The Lorax' Debuts at The Old Globe

The classic kid's story recounts a timely message about the environment and conservation

OB Playhouse's 'Hair' Is a High-Energy Ode to the 1960s

The Age of Aquarius dawns at the intimate Ocean Beach theater

Electric Ocean Returns to SeaWorld San Diego

The summertime celebration lights up the park with entertainment after dark
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

AquaVie: 10 Reasons It’s Downtown’s Best Kept Secret

The best workout and spa getaway around? It’s actually right underneath your nose.

Enter a Drawing You Could Actually Win

There are more than 1,700 prizes in the Dream House Raffle
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. The Best Burgers in San Diego
    These burgers are food critic Troy Johnson's finalists for the best in San Diego
  2. San Diego's Best Restaurants 2018
    Dig into the 260 winners defining San Diego’s food scene in 2018
  3. The Best of North County 2018
    Our annual list of what we’re loving above the 56, from bites and brews to shopping, wellness, and arts and kids’ activities galore
  4. Your 2018 San Diego Summer Bucket List
    Here’s our insider’s guide for Memorial Day through Labor Day
  5. The Coolest Things Happening in San Diego Beer Right Now
    A dive into the new, notable, and lesser-known in our city’s beer scene
  6. San Diego's Best Restaurant of 2018: The Finalists
    San Diego Magazine's Best Restaurants issue comes out in June. Here are food critic Troy Johnson's finalists for the best of the best.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module