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Frida Kahlo play at the Wilkerson Theater

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Courtesy of Lila Solorzano work in progress

The play “Frida Kahlo” is showing at the Wilkerson Theatre in Midtown until Oct. 9, presented by Teatro Espejo and Teatro Nagual.

The play was written by Rubén Amavizca-Murúa, artistic director of Teatro Sinergia in Los Angeles. It is directed by Dr. Manuel Jose Pickett, a retired professor of theater and dance and head of the Latino Theater program at Sac State. He is also the artistic director of Teatro Espejo and was an original member of El Teatro Campesino.

An intimate setting provides a great experience for those in attendance. The stage is well decorated with images of works by Diego Rivera and a portrait of Frida Kahlo.

Wilkerson Theatre stage

The five-member cast includes Diana Mandujano as Kahlo. The Sacramento State graduate depicted Kahlo admirably, and her talents were showcased. During the 2007 presentation of “Frida Kahlo,” Mandujano played Judas, a character depicted as a devil, and was awarded an Elly Award for best supporting actress.

John Dryden plays Judas this time around and is great as his movements, comments and narrative are delivered with great precision. Dryden is also a Sac State graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts.

Mariana Seda portrays Kahlo’s younger sister, Cristina. Seda recently collaborated with the Green Valley Theatre company and appeared in “Personals.”

Valentina Portela plays the role of Paula in her first professional theater experience. Portela is currently attending Natomas Charter School Performing and Fine Arts Academy.

Richard Falcón plays the role of Diego Rivera. Falcón’s vast theater experience clearly shows through his depiction of the great artist. Falcón is a founder of Teatro Nagual.

Before the Thursday’s showing began, Pickett welcomed those in attendance. He said plans have been made to bring “Zoot Suit” and “Let the Eagle Fly” to the stage next year. Teatro Nagual and Teatro Espejo will collaborate to present the two plays and bring other events to Sacramento.

The play begins with Kahlo describing herself, her anguish and her pain. She speaks about the trials and tribulations that affected her life, such as her battle with polio at age 6.

As if speaking in poetry, we hear what the great Mexican artist feels and thinks. We hear the pain that some say helped her create her beautiful works of art. Mandujano’s delivery through Kahlo’s narratives brings the audience to thoughtfully and emotionally participate in the play.

Richard Falcón as Diego Rivera and Diana Mandujano as Frida Kahlo

Meanwhile Kahlo’s alter ego, Judas, sits like a vulture on the head of her bed. Judas’ initial dialogue mimicks what Kahlo says.

Kahlo ends her initial narrative saying, with pride and vigor, “My name is Frida Kahlo.”

As a child afflicted with polio, her mobility was curtailed. She was teased by her classmates, while her father encouraged her artistic development. Her childhood story gives great insight to the pain Kahlo endured, not only physically but mentally as well.

Later on, the audience witnesses Kahlo meeting Rivera. She first approaches him at Mexico’s Ministry of Public Education, where he is painting a mural, and asks him to critique her work. It is believed from that point forward one of the most celebrated love stories began.

We witness their love affair, as well as their extramarital affairs, including Rivera’s affair with Cristina. Kahlo’s bisexuality is briefly touched on during the play. The lively romance between the two artists is at the core of the story and was well acted and received.

The play also covers the two artists’ ardent political views and their international fame. Rivera was commissioned to create several murals in the United States and, as the play mentions, Kahlo was the first Mexican artist to exhibit work at the Louvre Museum.

Frida Kahlo stage

Over a third of her paintings are self-portraits, and most are said to depict symbolic portrayals of physical and mental wounds. A bad traffic accident in her teen years caused several serious injuries, and Kahlo forever lived with pain as a result.

“I paint portraits because I am alone most of the time, because I am the person I know best,” Kahlo once said.

The play wonderfully portrays Kahlo’s deep insight to her art, political views, feminism, feelings and troubled — and joyful — love affair with Rivera. Under the direction of Pickett, the small yet strong cast puts on a commanding performance.

“Frida Kahlo” shows Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. until Oct. 9. Reservations can be made by calling (916) 548-4435. The Wilkerson Theatre is located at 1723 25th St.

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