According to a recent NPR story, 12 journalists have been murdered in Mexico so far this year, making it the deadliest nation in the world for reporters. Rebeca Alemán's two-character play for Water People Theater (presented as part of the third annual Chicago International Latino Theater Festival: Destinos) addresses the crisis through the story of Paulina (played by Alemán), a Venezuelan-born human rights reporter in Mexico trying to regain her memory and speech after being in a coma for several months.
Paulina's caregiver is her former coworker, Rodrigo (Ramón Camín), whose sympathetic demeanor seems to mask a darker secret that comes out gradually over the 90 minutes of the play. But The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon isn't a whodunit so much as a "why do it?" Why do journalists like Paulina risk so much, and does their sacrifice make a difference? Sobering questions, to be sure. But Alemán, as both playwright and actor, imbues Paulina with a defiant wit that animates her fragile physical exterior and lets us see precisely what kept her going as she reported on violence waged against other women, especially Indigenous activists.
Director Iraida Tapias skillfully underscores the play's many moments of tenderness and poetry (Rodrigo reads Octavio Paz aloud), even as Paulina begins to piece together what happened to put her in the coma. The reason she and so many real-life women journalists have been targeted? "For telling the truth. For doing their job. Because they're women." As the play honors the memory of journalists like Miroslava Breach, it also asks us to be brave enough to look at the same injustices they wrote about. v