Memory can be a warm blanket, a cruel knife, and a revolutionary act all at once. Gala Hispanic Theatre’s must-see En el Tiempo de Las Mariposas (In the Time of Butterflies) unfurls a gripping vision of life, love, and sacrifice under the ruinous rule of Dominican dictator General Rafael Trujillo. Gripping performances and audiovisual effects ensnare playgoers within the desperate world of the Mariposas, revolutionary sisters who gave everything in a historic fight against tyranny.
It all starts so simply, in a quiet 1930s garden where the four carefree Mirabal sisters enter the scene: Patria (Lorena Sabogal), the oldest and most devout; Minerva (Alina Robert), the third oldest and most headstrong; Dede (Catherine Nunez), the second youngest; and Mate (Ines Dominguez del Corral), the youngest. The four actresses display strong chemistry in their opening moments, buttressed by their believably distinct personas. Minerva quickly asserts herself as the play’s dramatic pivot point, recalling a fateful meeting with a poor girl bearing dire political warnings about Trujillo. The sisters don’t know it yet, but at that moment, the veil Trujillo’s personality cult is pierced. And there’s no going back.
Director Jose Zayas then wheels the audience from the 1930s to the present, with help from evocative scenic elements, music, and projections by designers Mariana Fernandez, David Crandall and Alex Basco Koch. Zayas’ creative team creates a remarkable sense of place with images and sounds pulled from Dominican history and culture. Following the transition, an older and wiser Dede, played by acclaimed Cuban actress Broselianda Hernandez, shares slices of her history with a visiting Dominican-American writer (Karen Romero). Hernandez brings her years of experience to bear on a character torn between hard-won peace and painful nostalgia for lost years in the family home. Karen Romero holds her own as an outsider trying to reckon with her own lost heritage.
The action swings steadily back and forth between past and present, with the smooth Delbis Cardona (as a Dominican Top-40 DJ) confidently narrating the shift in time and place. As the sisters grow from girls into women, costume designer Moyenda Kulemeka marks the time with beautiful print dresses followed by stately evening gowns that highlight a fateful dress ball. There, Cardona shows a far darker side to his jocular DJ with a charismatic yet menacing turn as General Trujillo. Cardona glides across the stage like a viper, romancing Minerva with a practiced charisma that conceals a deep well of paranoia and malice. This nerve-jangling encounter tears the veil from Trujillo’s brutal regime and shatters the innocence of the Mirabal sisters’ quiet garden existence.
En el Tiempo de Las Mariposas
closes May 13, 2018
Details and tickets
As the play speeds along, it focuses in on the close-knit duo of Minerva and Mate, now sisters in arms. Alina Robert and Ines Dominguez del Corral string together captivating scenes marking the sisters’ Icarus-like narrative arc, as things start to spin apart violently for the Mirabals. Meanwhile, on the other side of time, elder Dede grapples with long-repressed memories on the other side of time. Broselianda Hernandez increasingly commands the stage with barely-contained torrents of grief and regret. History and memory, love and pain blur together in the searing finale, set within a stunning kaleidoscope from lighting designer Christopher Annas-Lee.
Director Jose Zayas and his creative team have gifted DC audiences with a moving and important theatrical experience that resonates across time. The tales of quietly remarkable people like the Mirabal sisters, who did what they thought was right to protect family and country, are stories that urgently need telling. So pay a visit to Gala, bring a friend, and let this little slice of history thrill and empower you.
In Spanish with English surtitles.
En el Tiempo de Las Mariposas (In the Time of Butterflies) . By Caridad Svich . Based on the Novel by Julia Alvarez . Directed by Jose Zayas . Produced by Hugo Medrano, for Gala Hispanic Theatre . Featuring Delbis Cardona, Alina Robert, Catherine Nunez, Lorena Sabogal, Ines Dominguez del Corral, Broselianda Hernandez, Karen Romero . Scenic Design by Mariana Fernandez . Lighting Design by Christopher Annas-Lee . Costume Design by Moyenda Kulemeka . Sound Design by David Crandall . Projections Design by Alex Basco Koch . Produced by GALA Hispanic Theatre . Reviewed by Ben Demers.