The Sins of Sor Juana Blog Review by Kelly Kabialis
The Goodman’s long-anticipated showing of The Sins of Sor Juana is part of the Latino Theatre Festival. This heart wrenching, Latin-themed production hits a few targets but leaves many completely untouched. The story takes place in 17th century Mexico in a convent and palace; there, we meet Juana Ramirez de Asbaje, a young girl who joined the convent and became Sister Sor Juana de La Cruz in order to be able to write and to have somewhere to go. Having somewhere to go is a common conflict that could be solved with sisterhood. However, knowledge? Freedom? Where does religion come into either of those desires? SURPRISE — it doesn’t. This is probably the reason for the clunky script — it is trying to dig itself out of a predictable plot but seems to fall flat on its face.
The one beneficial point of this production is the history of the plot; Sor Juana is based on a real intelligent, rebellious, and passionate woman who did what her gut said and followed her goals until they were reached. It is so disappointing that actress Malaya Rivera Drew cannot not deliver these traits to the level they required. Portraying the beauty of another culture with accuracy seems to be an unreachable goal for the entire cast of this show. Drew makes a strong effort to speak with power and walk with poise (key word: effort), however she often seems to trail off in her own thoughts and then remembers she is actually on stage. The cast is predominantly accent-free, which is another missing piece. The story would have pulled me in much more if there had been accents, but they only pronounce Latin names with a small vocal difference. The show provides a weak cast and makes a sad attempt at being accurately or even somewhat Latin-inspired.
When it comes to the Goodman, I remain consistently impressed with the costumes and the set; they were beautiful. The set needed a little bit more of an explanation as to how one element of the story connected to the other. But other than small flaws the overall theme of yearning to be free is something almost anyone can relate to, whether young or old. If having a predictable but somewhat entertaining show satisfies your theatre hunger then The Sins of Sor Juana is for you. Just remember upon entering the Goodman: set your cultural standards low and that this is art and obviously a work in progress. With a little better direction and a more solid plot, The Sins of Sor Juana could have been the highlight of the Latino Theatre Festival.