Like melodrama, for commitment-phobes.
I’ll say this for the Gala Theatre’s world premiere adaptation of Like Water For Chocolate: It sure has some delicious-sounding recipes. Quail browned in butter, then cooked with ground chestnuts and rose petals? I might have to try that at home. Savory pastries stuffed with sardines and fried chorizo? Oh my, yes. Mexican Revolution histrionics, however, might go down a little easier if we liked the characters.
Directed by Olga Sánchez and adapted by Garbi Losada from the novel by Laura Esquival, Como Agua Para Chocolate, going on now until October 7, combines melodrama with magic realism in telling the story of Tita (Inés Domìnguez del Corral) the youngest of three daughters living on a ranch in northern Mexico in the first decades of the 20th century. Tita, who is born into a family that expects its youngest daughters to remain spinsters to take care of their mothers, is destined to die without marrying or having children, we’re told early on, but she has a great love: Pedro (Peter Pereyra) who marries her older sister just so he can stay close to Tita. Terrific plan, dude.
Think Little Women rewritten by Gabriel García Márquez — and with the mother turned into a total asshole — and you’re most of the way there. Actually, no, that sounds more fun…
This play is overlong, under-compelling, and constantly fraught. It’s fraught all over the damn place. There are multiple characters whose yelling you get sick of, and very few who are really sympathetic.
Also: I could do without the fart jokes.
The technical aspects, at least, are muy bueno. Lights, including some green-lit ghosts, from Christopher Annas-Lee are well-tuned and expressive. David Crandall’s score is moving and carefully planned out. Costumes from Moyenda Kulemeka and the set designed by Mariana Fernández leave nothing to be desired — I even like the tile pattern.
But the story is alienating, and more than a little ridiculous. When Tita and Pedro’s love story reaches its (literally) fiery climax, the absurdity proved too much for Friday night’s audience and people burst out laughing. Someone even yelled “come ON!” at what was no doubt supposed to be an devastating and exhilarating moment. Not exactly the reaction the cast and crew was probably hoping for.
This show has some decent flavors, but you’ll leave hungry.