Mariela in the Desert | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Mariela in the Desert

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The kernel of a very good idea lies at the heart of Karen Zacarias's play, now receiving its world premiere under Henry Godinez's direction. Exploring the frustrations and machinations of the title character, wife of a dying painter who was once friends with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Zacarias hints that often the most interesting stories can be found in the margins of the canvas. But that through line is diluted during the 90-minute play by too many competing narratives. Part ghost story, part intimate family drama, part commentary on artists' suffocating narcissism, the script never manages to bring any of these elements into sharp focus. Sandra Marquez delivers a tough and layered turn as Mariela, however, and the visual design--particularly John Boesche's magical projections--helps hold our interest even as the story flounders. Through 2/27: Tue-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM. Sun 2/20, 2 and 7:30 PM. Sun 2/27, 2 PM. Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, 312-443-3800 (TTY 312-443-3829). $10-$25; dinner package available.

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