Review: ‘Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)’ at GALA Hispanic Theatre

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The current offering from the justly renowned GALA Hispanic Theatre, Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water For Chocolate) is a veritable feast for the senses and a savory mixture of theatrical techniques that constitute a cornucopia of dramatic and comedic delight. This colorful and atmospheric play that spans several decades is intimately and precisely performed under the perceptive and vigorous direction of Olga Sanchez.

The U.S. premiere of Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) plays through October 7, 2018, at GALA Hispanic Theatre. Photo by Daniel Martinez.
The U.S. premiere of Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) plays through October 7, 2018, at GALA Hispanic Theatre. Photo by Daniel Martinez.

Ms. Sanchez keeps the play (adapted for the stage by Garbi Losada) moving along with sensitivity as she guides a large ensemble cast with fluidity and cohesiveness. Rarely have I seen an ensemble cast that played off each other so beautifully and with such reciprocity.

Themes of authority versus individualism and tradition versus free choice are prevalent throughout the play. Again, we have the very satisfying theatrical staple of “Three Sisters,” starting with Chekhov’s famous play of the same name and running through the three sisters who appear in Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart and Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig. Here we have the younger sister, Tita, and the elder sisters, Gertrudis and Rosaura.

The most intriguing theme of the play is the human connection to food with all its infinite variety including brittleness, laughter, and sensuality. Several stimulating recipes–such as wedding cake, soup, and chorizo–are described and made in full view on stage.

As Tita, the youngest daughter who fights tradition, Ines Dominguez del Corral projects an air of quiet strength. Ms. Dominguez del Corral’s facial expressions are priceless in their myriad moods. Guadalupe Campos as Rosaura is superb in her role as the character who is able to wed the man that Tita truly loves. Yaremis Felix as Gertrudis is wonderful especially in her scenes of giving in to her sensual feelings.

Teresa Yenque as the cook, Nacha, is marvelous in her portrayal. Alternately earthy and sagacious, Ms. Yenque commands the stage. When Ms. Yenque dies and leaves the earthly sphere to go on to the spirit world, Lighting Designer Christopher Annas-Lee does a superior job with lighting the windows with the shadows of the departed.

As Mama Elena, Luz Nicolas was the epitome of harsh discipline. Ms. Nicolas’ timing and physical movements aptly captured the stern authority of the punishing matriarch. Particularly compelling was Ms. Nicolas’ scene where she remembered her love for her dead husband.

As Chencha, the maid, Karen Morales was a comic delight. Ms. Morales particularly elicited much hearty laughter in the second act as she reacted to the other characters and to external events with appropriately “over the top” borderline hysteria and comedic mannerisms.

The U.S. premiere of Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) plays through October 7, 2018, at GALA Hispanic Theatre. Photo by Daniel Martinez.
The U.S. premiere of Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) plays through October 7, 2018, at GALA Hispanic Theatre. Photo by Daniel Martinez.

Peter Pereyra’s character of Pedro was appropriately sincere, warm, and callow. Mr. Pereyra’s seeming contradiction over marrying a woman he does not truly love is very complex and well-played.

Carlos Castillo was very well-cast as the character of Don Pascual. Delbis Cardona’s portrayal of Dr. John Brown was charismatic. Ms. Karen Romero had a distinctive voice as the narrator.

Music and Sound Design by David Crandall was subtly intertwined throughout. Scenic Design by Mariana Fernandez was superlative in evoking a Mexican hacienda. Costume Design by Moyenda Kulemeka was very colorful and evocative of the timespan covered.

Do not miss this superior and invigorating production that will stimulate your senses!

Running Time: Two hours, with one 10-minute intermission.

Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water For Chocolate) plays through October 7, 2018, at the Gala Hispanic Theatre located at 3333 14th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20010. Como Agua Para Chocolate is performed in Spanish with English subtitles. For tickets call (202) 234-7174, or go online.

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.

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