Lolita de Lares | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Lolita de Lares, Latino Chicago Theater Company.

On March 1, 1954, two men and a woman took their seats in the visitors' gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives. Moments later, the woman rose and called for the freedom of Puerto Rico, and all three opened fire. Five congressmen were wounded; and the three rebels, plus an accomplice, were taken into custody and identified as members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.

The woman was Dolores Lebron, whose life comprises the story of Migdalia Cruz's Lolita de Lares. But this Latino Chicago production is no dry documentary--it's a kaleidoscopic pageant incorporating music, dance, fantastical figures (gorgon-masked carnival clowns who mock a ludicrously naive Anglo tourist guide), and surreal images of biting clarity, as when a priest bludgeons a native with a cross, then sheds his robes to reveal a business suit. Far from obscuring Lebron's biography, Cruz's play amplifies it by providing the context (in which our government played no small part) that helped forge this remarkable personality.

Led by riveting performances from Justina Machado and Maricela Ochoa as the young and the old Lebron, the 11 cast members, playing more than 50 characters, and director Edward F. Torres maintain an unflagging pace over the play's nearly two and a half hours. This is a colorful, insightful look at a chapter of history Americans would do well to study.

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