Sunday, April 19, 2009

Visionary Women

I attended two artistic experiences this weekend created by visionary women: When Nature Calls, a theatre piece by Josefina Lopez, at Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble (BOFTA), and The Woeful Maladies of Ennui Manor, choreographed by Jennifer Backhaus to music composed by Alan Terricciano, performed by Backhausdance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

This was my second visit to BOFTA, and it was opening night for this series of monologues dealing with human nature and the natural world. Author Lopez is the writer of the popular film and stage play Real Women Have Curves, and after the performance, she sat with BOFTA's artistic director Sara Guerrero and co-artistic director Elsa Martinez Phillips, and took questions from the audience. As in many works where multiple characters are presented in solo scenes, I found myself preferring some over others, but there is no question that Lopez is an inspired writer who has mastered her craft. And she is immensely passionate and precise in speaking about her work.

I had not ever seen the work of Backhausdance, the eponymous company of Mission Viejo choreographer Jennifer Backhaus, and I was particularly intrigued by the mysterious photo employed in advertising the title piece in her spring concert. The program credits Edward Gorey as inspiration for The Woeful Maladies of Ennui Manor, and it certainly possessed that Edwardian-period feel in its sepia-toned costumes and in the behavioral customs of the dancers at play in an open field balanced by a broadleaf tree. It was not really macabre in the way of Gorey's work, but that didn't matter--it showed off to fine effect the skills of her company and Backhaus's own theatrical style of staging a narrative piece. Terricciano's music was the perfect accompaniment, particularly as played by the Robin Cox Ensemble.

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