Five Women in Havana
By Ree Howell
Directed by Kathleen Lindsay
Womens’ Playwright Initiative
Sometimes life hands you a lecture on the joys and evils of communism, and there’s no way to sneak out. The agitprop was getting pretty thick in this World Premier play when the cast stripped down to their underwear, which brightened the political dialog immensely. This amazing transformation came halfway through the first act of “Five Women in Havana”, this season’s WPI full length finale. The premise intrigues – as a category 5 hurricane bears down on Cuba’s aging infrastructure, five women are trapped in a seedy hotel until the weather clears or the building falls down around them. Two Americans (Janet Raskin as Harriett, Christine Padovan as Rachel) and Cuban expatriate Pilar (Vanessa Sotomayor) meet the fanatical Castro supporter Juana (Noel Miner) and her cynical cousin Maria (Jenifer Catalano). Tension turns into bonding and a tired debate on the virtues and vices of Cuba vs. America, but then we get personal – each woman reveal her deepest, darkest secrets, all of which seem to involve cheating men.
While the show careens from idea to idea and plot points fly like lawn furniture in the eye of a storm, the capable cast sketches believable and sympathetic women. There are laughs scattered throughout, some intentional and a few not. The strongest chemistry flows between Juana’s idealistic communism and Marias’s more skeptical nationalism. Both want out of the Worker’s Paradise, and their fight over a man is the best developed back-story in the show. Catalano’s Pilar takes the lead on the tango dancing sequences, which were good enough to enjoy but not so good as to be unbelievable. Rachel had the nicest undies and the most open ended story – an awkward impregnation with no real clue as to motivation or potential resolution.
Five Women in Havana Director Lindsay pulled an entertaining evening out of a very rough script (which was read by WPI in June but not revised). This story has a great premise and lots of promising story leads scattered thought it, but it some revision might make it easier for a good cast to make it a heart-breaker of a relation play, and not have to struggle to keep the shingles from flying off.
Five Women in Havana For more information on Womens’ Playwright Initiative, please visit http://www.WomenPlaywrights.com/