The spirit of the Mirabal sisters graced the Parker Theatre stage last Thursday through Saturday as the theatre department’s first mainstage production went underway.
“In the Time of the Butterflies” opened Oct. 3 and told the story of Las Mariposas, the women who inspired a national resistance against dictator Gen. Rafael Trujillo in 1950’s Dominican Republic.
Directed by Estefania Fadul, the performance highlighted how powerful storytelling can be, and how deeply sisterhood can unite both families and an entire country. The Mirabal sisters (Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa) played a critical role in overthrowing Trujillo, and their assassination by the dictator made them martyrs in history. Their other sister Dede stayed relatively uninvolved in the resistance movement and ended up the sole survivor of Las Mariposas, so she dedicated her life to telling their story and demonstrating their heroism.
With a relatively small cast, special attention must be paid to the multiplicity of the actors and actresses in this show. Certain actors, like Nathan Benitez, played numerous characters with very different attitudes, which I felt was a feat in and of itself. Benitez gave us a chilling Trujillo, a lively DJ, a caring father, a romantic communist and even a devoted driver. The diversity in his performances as all of these characters was refreshing and detailed, and I enjoyed watching all his different characters come to life with unique costumes, body language and demeanor.
The four sisters had amazing chemistry between one another, and each actress brought their character to life in a way that differed and complemented their scene partners. Sofia Tirado-Ortiz (Young Dede) and Brooke Elardo (Minerva) did a great job of showing a difficult, tense sister relationship. They had moments full of love and other times full of anger or frustration, and I appreciated the nuance between them.
Halle Paz (Patria) and Brittany Hernandez (Maria Teresa) gave incredible performances as well, and their characters functioned well as either adding to or easing tension between other characters. Dede and Minerva were often butting heads, but Patria and Maria Teresa excelled at bringing the sisters together to get things done. Angelina Bell (Old Dede) also added a layer to the show in her wise and touching portrayal of Dede post-war, and acted as an oracle for her sister’s story.
The way the storytelling took place was also something ethereal. The women told the story through diary entries that seamlessly blended into full scenes. I got wrapped up in the story every time a new character started telling a part of it through their eyes. The set added to this ethereal feeling as well, with gentle warm lighting and a cozy table setting, which gave the sensation of a comfortable home. This comfort soothed the more dramatic scenes and made the family moments that much sweeter.
Staying true to history, this show accurately portrayed the history of this unwarranted massacre, but told the story by staying at home with the Mirabals. This history play actively stays with the women it talks about, and doesn’t mind its place in such a subjective sphere. History is often told in a more scientific way, written by the victors with little emotion behind it. Plays like this give voice to the people who are affected by this version of history, and hears out those voices that are often lost. Bell did a wonderful job of speaking truth to this history.
The dedication of this cast and crew was powerful and felt throughout the entire performance. Not a single second does this show waiver from the points it wants to make, and it shares its message in a heartfelt, meaningful way. Go see “In the Time of the Butterflies” from Oct. 17 to 20 in Parker Theatre!