CASA 0101’s ‘Hungry Woman’ Provides Food for the Soul
by Raquel Sanchez
CASA 0101’s Hungry Woman tackles the themes of depression, cultural expectations, immigration and self-acceptance in a chicken soup for the MA-TV audience way. Told in different vignettes and narrated by Rachel Gonzalez as Canela Guerrero, CASA 0101’s stage production of Hungry Woman is funny, nostalgic, and insightful. It is empowering for women who struggle with depression and the constraints enforced on them by their respective cultures.
Based on Josefina Lopez’s semi-autobiographical novel, Hungry Woman in Paris, Corky Dominguez directs Josefina Lopez’s stage adaptation. Canela Guerrero is a Chicana Journalist who experiences a major tragedy in her life when her cousin and best friend Luna commits suicide. Luna’s suicide throws Canela’s life into a tailspin and she breaks her engagement to the gorgeous Chicano M.D. Armando, to the chagrin of her mother and family. In the midst of an intense depressive episode where La Calaca Flaca is seducing her into committing suicide, Canela decides to take her preempted honeymoon to Paris, France. There she attends culinary school, revisits the immigrant experience she lived in the States and explores her sexuality all in the efforts of finding herself.
Hungry Woman is a stylized production with an amazingly simple set. Cesar Holguin’s set design is made of several white platforms laid out like an Escher painting. Like a glass of spilt milk on a dark canvas, the white platforms serve as a backdrop to project images that transport the audience to different locations. The white set also served to enhance each actor’s performance and liven up the colorful costumes designed by Anthony Villarreal.
Rachel Gonzalez leads a cast of twelve actors and is engaging as Canela. She captures the essence of the character by guiding you through Canela’s emotional upheavals, suicide attempts, love escapades, and triumphant redemption with a quick wit and charming sense of irony. Mary Mendoza as La Calaca Flaca is fun as Canela’s seductive alter ego, emerging only when Canela is at her most depressed, to try to get her to kill her self. The ensemble cast embodies a number of characters seamlessly – from a French Chef to an Asian lady who buys Louis Vuitton purses to make knock-offs, to Algerians fighting for their civil rights, the characters entertained as well as created parallels to Canela’s life back in Los Angeles.
As aesthetically beautiful and well-acted as the production is, it felt too long. The most powerful aspects were Canela’s struggles with depression. The play revealed the cultural misconceptions people have about depression and how depressed women are labeled as locas because they are misunderstood. The immigration theme, although important, was peripheral. The play could have ended with Canela and her mother (wonderfully played by Linda Lopez) finding closure and Canela truly accepting who she is for better or worse.
Josefina Lopez and Corky Dominguez weave a tale that explores themes not often talked about in Latino Culture. Latina women do not generally abandon their MAPs (Mexican American Princes) in favor of loving themselves. They also do not openly discuss their mental state without being scrutinized and called crazy. Hungry Woman uses food as a metaphor for the “spiritual hunger” many women experience as they enter adulthood. There comes a time in life when women realize that their lives have been dedicated to feeding others’ needs while starving their own. It’s time for women to eat for themselves first and foremost.
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Written by Josefina Lopez
Directed by Corky Dominguez
June 7, 2013-June 30, 2013
2102 E. First St.
Los Angeles, CA 90033
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