Sunday, January 6, 2019

Review of La Ruta at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called La Ruta. It was by Isaac Gomez and it was directed by Sandra Marquez. It is about the community of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico on the border with the United States. They are a poor community and many of the women work in factories, and those are the women the play focuses on. Women are going missing and being abused and murdered throughout the community and people in authority are not taking it seriously. The play and the people's stories are based off of interviews with some of the women the characters are based on. It is about love and loss, denial and injustice. I think this is a heartbreaking and powerful story. It brought my attention to an issue that is not talked about very much. It is disgusting that the rape, murder, and abduction of so many women is covered up and ignored by authorities.

The first scene really sets a menacing tone. We learn that Marisela's daughter has gone missing. Marisela (Charín Alvarez) is waiting with her friend Yoli (Sandra Delgado) at the bus stop for Yoli's daughter Brenda (Cher Álvarez) and handing out flyers about Marisela's daughter. But as the buses keep coming, the tension starts to build because Brenda is not on the bus she was supposed to be on or the one after that. There is also, surprisingly, quite a bit of humor and you see a love between the friends. It diffuses the menace, but only for a short amount of time. And it makes you care about the characters even more deeply. Throughout the show they return to moments of humor and beautiful relationship building, which makes your connection to the characters even deeper.

Ivonne (Karen Rodriguez) is a very beautifully complicated character. She has many conflicted loyalties throughout the show which results in her having to make very difficult choices. She loves both her sister and her coworker Brenda, who also becomes a sisterly figure to her. She is forced to choose between them, but that doesn't necessarily mean she can get what she wants. She doesn't have as much control as she wishes she had because she doesn't have a gun or a penis. Other characters sometimes see her as the beacon of trouble and think that she has something to do with the disappearances. But they don't understand how complicated her situation is.

There are no men in this play which I think is a very interesting idea. I think it adds a lot to the story because instead of seeing men doing horrible things, we get to imagine them which shows them in vivid detail in our heads. We don't think of them as human, we think of them as mythical monsters. We get to see the men through the eyes of women who have lost people that they loved and nothing else matters. All they see is an evil entity who is trying to take away people they love. It is important to remember that it is terrible humans who do these things. There is someone to blame and they are blamable. Not representing them as humans in this play lets us put their actions first which is fair because they did not think of their victims as human beings. They thought of them as objects they could manipulate to their will. Because media and culture and government encourage the ownership of women, rape and murder become a way of telling women they shouldn't exists as humans. Because we don't see individual men in this show, we are able to understand the perspective of the women and how it is a bigger problem than just a few evil men.

People who would like this show are people who like stories about terrifying realities, complicated characters, and blended humor and menace. I think this is a very thought-provoking and powerful show. I really liked it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow