ensemble theatre · las damas calaveras · Ages 15+ · world premiere · United States of America

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June 22, 2016 certified reviewer

What I liked

I absolutely loved Vanessa Espino’s play…her use of magic realism allowed the audience to take a unique and interesting journey to Middle Earth where “esquelitos” (skeletons) dwell and wait to welcome the newly dead. Through a magical character, Khaya, the main character Odilia is brought to Middle Earth against her will—-is she dead or is she there temporarily until she finds the answers to some long-ago questions? That’s what the play is about…what Odilia will find out and if she will get to leave Middle Earth or become another of its denizens. The esquelitos are building a beautiful “offrenda” (altar) to welcome a new guest…but who will it be?

The writing is elegant with some lovely comedic moments. I especially loved the esqueleto “Guillermo” (I don’t know if I have this character’s name right….but the older, male skeleton). He was quite a well-drawn, humorous character. Made me laugh to hear a skeleton complain about how tired he was! One of my favorite scenes was when Odilia explained sex to an older, female esqueleto who presumably died a virgin. Also, there is great chemistry between the sexy young esqueleto and Odilia. In his dazzling “zoot suit” and painted, skeleton face, he exuded machismo, sex, dread and oftentimes comfort as he holds the key to Odilia’s exit from Middle Earth.

The set is simple and I loved the beautiful offrenda the esqueletos created (at times with Odilia’s help). The costumes and makeup are amazing. Loved the direction by Sarah Figoten Wilson (except one moment, noted below).

What I didn't like

There was something going on with the lighting mid-play. The lights went on and off at weird times. Not sure it was intentional (if so, was it to punctuate the moments of Odilia’s trying to exit Middle Earth? If that’s the case, then it wasn’t a successful choice). I THINK (hope) it was just a malfunction with the lighting plot, because the house lights came on after the lights going on and off and illuminated the rest of the play. I wanted to ask the house manager if it was intentional or a lighting snafu, because it took me out of the play a bit. HOWEVER not enough to be a problem with my TOTAL enjoyment of the play!

My overall impression

Vanessa Espino is a talented writer. “Odilia” is such an imaginative and poetic work of theater.. The play does exactly what I go to the theater for—-to experience a new world/characters and stand in their shoes for a bit. To learn a little bit more about life, love, relationships, regret, death, shame, and rebirth. “Odilia” offers so much. One of my favorite plays of the Fringe.

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