GALA Theatre is presenting its most overtly political play in a very long time. Political in as much as it deals with the real life events of three martyrs of modern Dominican Republic history and their battle against the tyrant Rafael Trujillo. The play 'In the Time of the Butterflies' is based on the novel by Julia Alvarez adapted for the theatre by Caridad Svich. It is the story of the three most famous Dominican women in modern history, the Mirabal sisters, brutally assassinated in November of 1960 on the way back from a visit to their jailed husbands. Months later, after more than 30 years in power, the Trujillo dictatorship would fall as the 'caudillo' was murdered in an ambush.
Caridad Svich has made a most faithful adaptation of this very famous material. Not only did Julia Alvarez write the novel in 1994 upon which the play is based, but later it was adapted as a movie with Salma Hayek in the starring role as the mercurial Minerva. In his famous novel, "The Feast of the Goat", Mario Vargas Llosa dedicated a chapter to the events surrounding the Mirabal sisters assassination and Dominicans of all ages know the story as a turning point in the history of their country's struggle against the dictatorship.
The Svich adaptation attempts to capture and synthesize four different perspectives into this one play making it a bit complicated, albeit fascinating, to follow. A Dominican 'DJ' opens the show as if speaking for the 'pueblo' and the popular beliefs of the time. He pops in every so often during the show as if a rollicking Greek chorus to this Dominican tragedy.
Scenes of the 3 sisters as young girls highlight the activism of middle sister Minerva (stunningly played by Alina Robert in her first turn on the GALA stage), known for her fiery activism and how these three women of privileged background ended up martyrs to the cause.
At some point in the play a young female author appears questioning an older Dedé (the 4th sister who did not die in the assassination plot) decades later about all that happened. This portion of the play seems to suggest Julia Alvarez herself researching for her book, making these scenes somewhat of a play within the play.
The people, the young sisters, the older sister recounting her past and then a cameo, if you will, of the evil dictator himself (exquisitely performed by the multifaceted Delbis Cardona) complete a whirlwind drama that moves in and out of time and portrays various characters over long periods.
What most remained for this viewer was the charming, determined and intense portrayal of Minerva by Alina Robert that emphasized the pain and tragedy of the Mirabal sisters. It is Minerva who provokes the radicalization of her two sisters and marries a leader of the resistance. It is Minerva who's relationship to Trujillo is most conflicted (she refuses to bed him) and who suffers the inability to practice law due to Trujillo's prohibition.
The work is featured at GALA until May 13th Thursdays through Sundays. If you have any interest in this subject go see this remarkable piece of historical drama ably personified and portrayed in GALA's version of the story. Once again GALA has performed an important production with verve and excellence. Check out the details at www.GALA.org and go see this absorbing and excellent theatre piece.