ECAS’ Divorciadas, Evangelicas y Vegetarianas Is Clever and Funny

ECASSometimes a play is able to slip in a message unnoticed, all while coming across as light, breezy entertainment. In the case of Gustavo Ott’s snide, yet heartwarming Divorciadas, Evangelicas y Vegetarianas (Divorcées, Evangelists, and Vegetarians), three women’s lives intersect briefly in what could be written off as an almost sitcom-like romp, but greater questions lurk beneath the surface. In this case, Ott’s tale of cheating husbands, repressed sexuality and religious confinement ultimately serves as a comic treatise on the basic right to live in equality, regardless of gender or class. In the current outing by Providence’s Teatro ECAS, director Francis Parra manages to keep it simple, but has a cast with enough chemistry to let the complexity shine through.

An organization formerly known as the Educational Center of Arts and Sciences, Teatro ECAS’ longstanding mission promotes theater within a multicultural setting, and while they produce their shows primarily in Spanish (ECAS is the largest independent professional Spanish-speaking theater in New England), the English version of the script is projected above the set for those who need it. However, even for someone like myself who needed the supertitles, the story is still highly accessible due to clear-cut characterizations by the three protagonists.

We meet the lonely Beatriz on a subway station platform, clearly out of sorts. Struggling to control tears, we will soon find that she exemplifies an identity struggle common to all three characters in Divorciadas… — when society only sees your self-worth in the context of a man, where does one turn for respect? The divorced Beatriz is played with a stately assurance by Francis Mary Gomez who delivers the type of performance that seems so lived-in, we forget that she’s acting. Her moments of self-deprecating humor are genuine and unguarded; she’s a joy to watch.

Beatriz is saved (or at least distracted from) jumping on the tracks by the living whirlwind, Gloria (a  gloriously manic and utterly captivating Niza Viñas), an impulsive wanderer, lost in an abusive relationship with a married man who has bullied her into vegetarianism. Gloria immediately takes up Beatriz’ cause as a matter of course, sweeping Beatriz into her orbit even while constantly forgetting her name:

BEATRIZ: This is your husband?

GLORIA: He’s not my husband, my boyfriend, or my anything, because I just told him

to go to hell. Let him find himself some other idiot. I’m not putting up with

it anymore.

BEATRIZ: Maybe he’s trying to call you and…

GLORIA: I’m not stupid. I’m not a fool.

If he calls, I’ll tell him to go to hell, Betsy, I swear…

BEATRIZ: Beatriz…

GLORIA: Because this isn’t the first time, Brunhilda…

It’s the type of simple humor that keeps the play grounded while still capturing the anguish and struggles of these women. The trio is completed by the widowed Meche, an evangelical Christian wallowing in existential contradictions. Rose Peralta does a fine job at portraying Meche’s struggles between the sacred and the profane as simply par for the course instead of overplaying the few glimpses at naughty deviation that we’re allowed to glimpse. Her shining moment comes in the second act, when, at a morning outing in the park, she is compelled to perform an exorcism on Beatriz to relieve her of the “demon of lasciviousness.” In a hilarious bit of stagework (involving a rather large carrot), Meche’s efforts supposedly end up with the selfsame “demon” trapped inside her. It’s an uproariously funny moment, punctuated by Gloria’s matter-of-fact acceptance of Meche’s methodology alongside Meche’s adoption of Gloria’s ambivalence toward Beatriz’ name:

MECHE: Demon of concupiscence inside this body, I ORDER YOU TO LEAVE! Out! Good spirits, I beseech you to be with this mortal, Anastasia…

BEATRIZ: Beatriz!

MECHE: Whatever!

With The Beatles serving as both a universal touchstone and a thematic underpinning, Ott’s trio makes us accomplices to their ever-shifting search for respect, identity and friendship. It may seem frivolous that the main concerns seem to be whether or not they can crash various parties, but each of them would tell us that the party isn’t the point – the point is what those parties symbolize. Independence, self-worth and the strength to overcome society’s pigeonholing of them as women – these ideas mean more to them in the end than a sexy pair of red shoes (Okay, the shoes don’t hurt, either).

Divorciadas, Evangelicas y Vegetarianas is an intimate, yet broadly funny story and ECAS’ handling of the script is deft and clever. With minimal scenery (three stage blocks and a simple platform are all the staging that’s required), we’re left to focus on the tight ensemble work on display. Teatro ECAS may not get the publicity that Rhode Island’s other theaters get, but their work is certainly no less deserving. With many choices in a crowded theater field this weekend, you may want to see what is happening on the South Side. We look forward to more.

Teatro ECAS presents Divorciadas, Evangelicas y Vegetarianas ((Divorcées, Evangelists, and Vegetarians) through April 7. 57 Parkis Ave, PVD. For tickets and more information, visit teatroecas.org

Leave a Reply

Prove that you are human *

Previous post:

Next post: