Chicago Theatre Review
Teatro Vista’s ‘Butterflies’ a Passionate Historical Drama
In the Time of the Butterflies – Teatro Vista
Historical drama is a notoriously tricky drama. Explain too little, and you leave the audience ignorant of the play’s nuances; explain too much, and the facts bog down the drama.
Thankfully, Teatro Vista’s Chicago-premiere production of “In the Time of the Butterflies,” which follows the revolutionary actions of an immensely brave group of sisters in mid-20th century Dominican Republic, strikes a fine balance between the narrative of Mirabal sisters and the facts of the violent, all-encompassing Trujillo dictatorship, which ruled the country with an iron fist for 31 years.
The key is in the play’s structure. Narratively, “Butterflies” moves briskly across two alternating timelines: one follows the four Mirabal sisters across the main arc of their lives as they pursue boys, write in their diaries, raise families, and grapple with the increasing suspicion that their brave leader may not be so great after all; the other follows Adele (the wonderful Charin Alvarez), the one sister who survived the revolution and, along with sharing world-weary reminisces of the Trujillo years, is filled with regrets on the sideline role she played in the activism that ultimately took her three sisters’ lives.
It is the play’s more experimental segments, though, that truly shine, and director Ricardo Gutierrez and his wonderful cast are to be commended for pursing such avenues with such vigor. For instance, there is the recurring motif of the DJ (one of five roles played by the very dextrous Eddie Martinez), who floats in and out of the action and presents the audience with various introductions and musical interludes (Trujillo’s government would stream 12 hours of live music a day across government stations). Most moving of all, though, are the direct addresses to the audience, passages where the cruelty of the Trujillo government – from its slaughter of innocent children to the brutal torture of the sisters – are presented with visceral clarity.
“Butterflies” ultimately ends on an inspiring note, but with war raging in Syria and debates about America’s own torture regimes continuing to unfold, the play proves once again how history speaks to the present.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented through May 22 by Teatro Vista at Victory Gardens Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln
Tickets are available by calling (773) 871-3000 or by visiting www.teatrovista.org.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.