Review: “Volcanes: Cuentos de El Salvador (Volcanoes: Tales of El Salvador)” at GALA Hispanic Theatre

Cornelia Cody’s Volcanes: Cuentos de El Salvador is the latest offering of GALA Hispanic Theatre’s GALita children’s theater.

Volcanes centers on a Salvadoran family split between the US and El Salvador. In the course of a long-distance phone call from a brother (played by Delbis Cardona) who is now living in the US, to his sister (Melissa Strova Valencia) in El Salvador, the brother recounts popular Salvadoran folk tales which come to vivid life onstage. Folk tales such as Los Cadejos tell of mythical dog-like creatures who appear mysteriously and protect villagers from danger. Through the entire story, volcanoes serve as a metaphor for the personal danger and loss experienced in modern day El Salvador.


Volcanoes, states Playwright Cornelia Cody, in discussing her play, “are beautiful, dangerous, volatile, and a part of the Salvadoran landscape. What better metaphor to use when speaking of personal danger and loss?”

Danger and loss are familiar themes to Salvadorans who have immigrated to the United States, but in creating a story that highlights the beauty of Salvadoran art, music and folktales, the creative team at GALA Hispanic Theatre approaches the subject from a place of beauty.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Cody and Director Gustavo Ott after the show and they both expressed the hope that audiences would leave the show feeling that beauty can be a salve in the painful discussion of immigration and loss; that with immigration, you are not leaving your homeland behind but carrying it inside you. Indeed, as a show whose primary audience is children, the overall feeling is not one of dwelling on the pain of separation but rather a joyous celebration of the tradition and culture that survives separation and loss.

Gustavo Ott’s atmospheric direction makes great use of music and masks, moving fluidly from moments of light hearted audience interaction to building ominous tension when danger appears.


Traditional Salvadoran music (sound design by William D’Eugenio), from the folk song “Las Cortadoras” to themes by Salvadoran composer and songwriter Pancho Lara, are woven throughout the show.

Three large screens covering the entire rear of the stage are artfully employed in projecting images of traditional and contemporary Salvadoran paintings and murals. Throughout the show, the scenic design by Brian Gillick and lighting design by Mary Keegan enhance the show and add drama.

In addition to Delbis Cardona and Melissa Strova Valencia, Volcanes’ cast is completed by Roberto Colmenares, Karen Morales, and Chema Pineda- Fernández.

Volcanes: Cuentos de El Salvador is primarily told in Spanish, with English intermingled.

Running Time: 45 minutes, with no intermission.


Volcanes: Cuentos de El Salvador (Volcanoes: Tales of El Salvador) plays on October 8, 9, and 22, 2016, at GALA Hispanic Theatre – 3333 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 234-7174, or purchase them online.

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Nicole Hertvik
A reformed child actor, Nicole got her BA in English literature before wandering the globe for a decade, writing and teaching English in Prague, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and Paris. She eventually landed in NYC where she received a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and dabbled in theater as an actor, script reader, and dramaturg. Thrilled by the strong and diverse theater community she discovered in Washington, DC, Nicole wakes up every morning excited to contribute to DC Metro Theater Arts and other publications. Nicole studied journalism at Georgetown University and was a 2019 fellow at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Critics Institute. Email:, Instagram: @nicolehertvik, Twitter: @nicolehertvik, Facebook: Nicole Hertvik.


  1. Cuentos de Vocanes is a True representation of our values, heritage and history. Thanks to all that made it possible.

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