The Sins of Sor Juana Blog Review by Angelique Boyd
The Sins of Sor Juana by Karen Zacarías has graced the Albert stage at the Goodman with its amazing plots, characters, and set. Sor Juana is a play about a woman who was extremely passionate about writing and knowledge. She loved writing so much that she joined a convent when the priest promised she could write whenever she wanted. This was a big deal in the 1700s because women weren’t allowed to learn, read, or write.
Juana’s love for writing was captured well by intense dialogue and scenes between Juana (Malaya Rivera Drew) and other characters. This play had some physical and violent action, which made the performance exciting to watch towards the end, and the dialogue was strong and interesting enough to keep the audience interested in the plot. The acting was great. Tony Plana played the role of Padre, the priest and guardian of the convent, and even though he wasn’t present for too long in the performance, he made a lasting impression.
There was also a perfectly created dream scene in Sor Juana. In this scene, the actors talked in a ghostly voice to give the illusion of a frightening dream. The dark, colored lights, and Juana pulling out huge red threads, which were words from a poem she stitched, from a huge cross-stitch were other perfect ingredients for a thrilling scene! The set design (Todd Rosenthal) of Sor Juana was also amazing. The Spanish columns; the sky with a white sphere as the moon, which made the sky look 3D; the Viceroy palace, and the mini statue of the Virgin Mary placed in a small altar made out of stone —these were all beautiful. I thought the set also painted an appropriate picture of the era, which was in the 1700s, when the Spaniards had control of Mexico.
Although this play was strong, there was a weakness that I think prevented Sor Juana from being its best: the chronology of the plot was very confusing. I assumed that the chronology of the play was flashback as I watched the play, but I know that some of my peers who saw the play were not confused. Still, I think a clear chronological order was needed. Another confusing element in the play was the character Xochitl. The actress who played her did an awesome job and she was a very interesting character to watch, but I didn’t really understand her role in Juana’s life. Was she a friend in the Viceroy Court? Was she a symbol or entity representing Juana’s conscience? Was she a psychic?
Maybe my limited knowledge of Juana’s life has affected my criticism of the play, but overall, the play’s plot and characters were great. I want to see it again, and I now want to learn more about Juana’s life. It is amazing how many people don’t know about this great woman who has affected the role of women in the Latino culture, but from what I can tell, the playwright and director of this production have done her life justice!