Naima Dawson is a published author, Chicago playwright, and professor. Her career accomplishments cover more than 20 years in Arts Entertainment. Her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and her Master of Education from DePaul University solidifies her ability to bridge the two worlds between Arts and Education. She is the writer and producer of Your Call! Late Night Improv & Sketch Comedy for Grown Folks, as seen in production at the Apollo Theater and The Mercury Theater.
Flavia Pallozzi (Minerva), Ayssette Muñóz (María Teresa “Mate”), Rinska Carrasco (Younger Dedé), and Sari Sánchez (Patria). Photo by Joel Maisonet.
Memories are beautiful moments that awake our purpose for living. It is not easy to memorialize the story of the Mirabal sisters and the volatile history of the Dominican people during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. However, Caridad Svich writes a symphonic liberation of Julia Álvarez’s renowned novel IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES. Director, Ricard Gutiérrez strategically unpacks Svich’s vision through narrative ballads that waltz us through the metamorphosis of the Mirabal sisters from young girls to young women.
The story is told to us by older Dedé, played by Charín Álvarez, who delivers such passion in a reflection of life that one forgets she is merely acting. Álvarez’s delivery of remembrance is emotionally charged and is the controlling and much-needed factor in threading each piece of the Mirabal’s sisters’ past. Older Dedé is visited by an American, played by Rinska Carrasco, who scribes history as it’s being told to her by the only living Mirabal sister, Dedé. The American writer struggles in her on identity, as Dedé retells the history of her sisters.
IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES, is driven by a timeline of secrets and adversities documented in forbidden diaries kept by each sister. Their worlds projected through some of the most alluring and yet some of the ugliest reflections of despair and love. One of the most riveting soliloquies is delivered by the eldest sister, Patria (Sari Sánchez), when she buries her stillborn baby and marriage at the same time. Sánchez’s powerful delivery brings sudden stillness of a calm before the storm. Her ability to transcend a mother’s lost and dying marriage in one movement is impressive. Young Dedé, also played by Rinska Carrasco, perfectly captures a sister who is paralyzed by her fears, yet it is her fear that saves her life and enables her to tell the story of her sisters. Carrasco invests so much into each character her dual casting goes unnoticed.
A considerable portion of the story hinges on the evolution of Minerva, played by Flavia Pallozzi, who is determined to join the resistance to fight against Trujillo. Pallozzi delivers memorable and poignant moments in the play (though she is sometimes stiffened by over-rehearsed lines), including one of survival and sisterhood when her character Minerva and the youngest sister, Mate (Ayssette Muñóz), are imprisoned and tortured by Trujillo’s prison guards. Muñóz and Pallozzi deliver an artful choir poem-style performance that drills deep into the darkness of despair. Together, they move as one voice to present one the most chilling performances in the play. Muñoz’s role as Mate brings out the innocence of childhood – she effortlessly captures those playful sibling moments juxtaposed against teen resistance. She makes you fall in love with her character’s naiveté and simplicity.
My only real disappointment was the absence of a contextualization for the evil and despicable nature of Rafael Trujillo, played by Eddie Martínez, who also played four other characters. I wanted Martinez to only deliver Trujillo, as he was able to flawlessly channel a cold arrogance, but his consecutive appearance as other characters muddied his real power as Trujillo.
Teatro Vista’s Chicago debut of IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES deserves our attention. It artistically threads the power of a family, culture, and faith through the beauty of remembrance. Our personal stories, the ones we hold closest to our hearts, often give power to our existence. IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES will not disappoint.