La Llorona was a 16th century Aztec princess who — according to a program note — was condemned to wander eternally through Mexico City in retribution for betraying her people and killing her children. Dressed in blue Aztec garb, the lady wanders (eternally) through “The Crying Woman,” which bodes poorly for two pregnant characters in the cast.
Mexico City-native Kathleen Anderson Culebro has come up with an intriguing scenario: out-of-work Mexican architect Carlos (Mauricio Tafur Salgado) and his pregnant wife Irma (Ioana Alfonso), struggling through continual economic devaluation, are forced to rent their upscale house and move into the attic as caretakers. In comes ugly-American businessman Jeffrey (Trevor Jones) and his neurotic (and infertile) wife Liz (Julia Barnett). Jeffrey is setting up the Mexico City franchise of Taco Town, a North-of-the-border fast food chain.
The superstitious Irma spends her confinement staring at Liz, hoping her child will be pretty; the Mexican baby comes out with red hair and blue eyes. Liz, naturally enough, becomes pregnant immediately (due in part to the lucky spotting of a hummingbird). Plotting starts to run astray when Jeffrey — fearing that his child will look like the Mexican housekeeper — forces Liz to wear a blindfold. Whenever the wind blows, the doomed Medea — or, rather, Llorona (Natasha Tabandera) — climbs through the three levels of Zhanna Gurvich’s set singing ominously.
Playwright Culebro holds our interest for quite a while, but could clearly use some editing; the play is perhaps 30 or 40 minutes too long. While there is no dramatic law against episodic construction, the two-act “Crying Woman” has well over 30 scenes; blackout follows blackout follows blackout, leading the audience to hope more and more for the house lights to come up after the next one. The plotting turns extreme in the last scenes, but by this point the battle has been lost.
Director-producer Tom Ferriter gets some good work out of his cast, especially Salgado (with a well-rounded portrayal of the frustrated, upper-class architect forced to work as a janitor in his own house) and Alfonso. The American roles are not as well written, with the husband verging on caricature. Tabandera does some ghostly singing and dancing (to music by Cindy O’Connor), always in semi-darkness.
“The Crying Woman” is too interesting to be easily dismissed; the playwright makes some good points about the American invasion of Mexican culture, demonstrating sly humor along the way. But the wordy script is not ready for prime exposure.