Letters To Clio- Part II, Margarita
nytheatre.com review by Heather J. Violanti
August 21, 2010
Letters to Clio is a eight-to-ten part series of plays by Jennifer S. Jones. Each one takes place in a different part of the globe and revolves around a woman who triumphs over tragedy. Jones focuses on women whose stories have been overlooked by mainstream American arts and media—girls trafficked in Nepal, mothers protesting the 1970s dictatorship in Argentina, women forced into prostitution in India, and so on.
In Part II, Margarita, an Argentine housewife named Margarita finds her voice after her only child is abducted during the military dictatorship that ravaged the country from 1976 to 1983. During this time, thousands of people were kidnapped or "disappeared" by the government and subsequently tortured and killed. In the play, the formerly timid Margarita finds courage in her despair, joining the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, a grassroots organization founded by mothers whose children and other family members were "disappeared."
Jones has crafted a moving one-person show about one woman's quest to find her daughter. She's not only the playwright, she's also the actor, playing all the roles in this heart-rending story: the tragic Margarita, her lively daughter Rosita, her somber husband Alberto, gruff soldiers, the Madres who band together to help topple the dictatorship. Jones makes the transitions between these different characters clear, yet it's frustrating that apart from Margarita, the other voices get so little stage time. Jones is an adept writer and actor—and I wanted to see more of her versatility in evidence. I wanted to hear more from the other characters, to see more of this world.
Still, Jones's often poetic script paints a compelling story of an ordinary life changed forever. Margarita used to live a comfortable yet politically isolated existence; when she loses her daughter she is spurred to fight against injustice. Her transformation is subtly and powerfully portrayed. As Margarita evolves, Jones's voice deepens and she stands a little taller, to show how this once retiring woman learns to assert herself.
Director Jessica Lefkow has crafted seamless transitions between the multiple characters and settings in Jones's script. The action is played swiftly with just a few set pieces—two tables and a chair. In all, this is an affecting and well-orchestrated one-person show that educates its audience about a painful time in Argentina's history.