The Pasadena Playhouse Brings Social Issues Center Stage
By Kramer Sullivan
“Topical” is one word to describe Real Women Have Curves, the semi-autobiographical play written by Josefina Lopez. While presidential debates rage over issues such as illegal immigration, Real Women Have Curves casts a spotlight on the plight and struggles of Latina immigrants in Los Angeles. The five women of the play, who are trying to make ends meet working in a garment factory, give the audience a humanizing look into the lives of low-income female immigrants.
Anna, the youngest of the women and focus of the play, is fresh out of high school and longs to go to college to become a writer, while her mother worries that this will make her unattractive to her future husband. Her older sister, Estella, owns the factory they work in, but is struggling with money and legal issues. The play follows them and two additional women through a week of work, as they try to complete a sewing order on time.
The play is being performed at the Pasadena Playhouse and has wonderful production quality, with particularly stellar lighting and sound effects. Even before the play begins, the audience can note the beautifully cluttered stage that perfectly captures the essence of a dirty and run-down garment factory in downtown L.A. This is the only setting for the play, but it is the only setting that is needed, as it encapsulates the tediousness and monotony of factory work.
However, while the play covers several important issues, it attempts to cover too many of them. In addition to illegal immigration, the struggles of the lower income, and what it means to be a woman, the play also tries to discuss healthy body image, the negative effects of capitalism, abusive spouses, and family roles. What we end with is a play that brings up a lot of social issues, but fails to discuss many of them to closure. Some topics are introduced, but before they are talked about in depth, we have already moved on to the next one. While the play has many noble messages, it becomes cluttered trying to say them all.
Additionally, the play ends with a major tone shift. What we see throughout the play is a gritty, realistic depiction of factory life. However, the story’s conclusion is almost too much of a fairy-tale ending, and isn’t directly related to the struggles we have been following.
These shortcomings are overshadowed, however, by the fabulous acting done by all the women on stage. Each one perfectly performed their role and the dialogue was natural and clever. The actresses and the characters were, without a doubt, the strongest point of the play. There were many instances of genuine comedy throughout, which helped offset the overall serious and depressing underlying themes. In addition to this, the characters create drama among themselves, while still being quite likable.
Overall, Real Women Have Curves is a good play that perhaps tries to accomplish too much. This doesn’t ruin it by any means, but it could have been an effective call to action of many social issues, if a few choice topics had been the focus. Regardless, it is worth a view, if only for the wonderful performances and production value.
Real Women Have Curves will be performing until Oct. 8 at the Pasadena Playhouse, located at 39 S. El Molino Ave. Pasadena, with tickets starting at $25. For additional information, visit their website at www.pasadenaplayhouse.org or call (626) 356-7529.