“We Women Do It Better,” now running at the Thalia Spanish Theatre, had all the opportunity in the world to explore a topic that is often not talked about: gender roles, specifically those in the Latino community, but sadly, it falls incredibly short.
“We Women” is a one-woman show that runs in both Spanish, starring Soledad Lopez, and English, starring Kathy Tejada. Each show runs at different times to accommodate the theater’s bilingual audience.
This review is based on the English version.
The premise is a supposedly highly regarded social psychologist giving a talk to students on why women “do it better,” but the show then spirals into a choppy review of all the men the main character has interacted with in her life.
From a stern father to an ungrateful husband, “We Women” covers all of the male stereotypes.
It is true, men play a significant role in the oppression, discrimination and limitation of women. But to write a play whose purpose is to presumably show women they have the agency to run their own lives, it spends an awful lot of time talking about failed relationships.
A word often used by Tejada is “machismo,” or macho; a characteristic many traditional Hispanic men try to adopt.
Yes, in the 1960s — where the storyteller’s “sexual awakening” begins — gender roles were much more distinct. Women most often stayed home and acted as caretakers while men worked and lived their lives as they chose.
So it makes sense for Tejada’s character to address that aspect of gender roles, but as time progresses and she gets older, the men she interacts with change very little.
In college she dates a wild hippie and yet he is conveyed as a flat man with no passion for human interaction. Then there is her husband: a “fat, bald, smoker” whom Tejada imitates by grunting and hunching her shoulders.
They are weak, one-dimensional versions of men. And had the main character been given a rich and complex arc, maybe the lack of dimension in the men could pass for intentional but in this case, it is hard to believe.
Perhaps a majority of the issues in the show stem from the fact that it is written by men — Roberto Ramos Perea, who wrote the original Spanish version, and Charles Philip Thomas, who wrote the English version.
The writers seem to tell a story of what they perceive so-called “feminists” to believe and why they believe it.
It is nearly impossible to comprehend the experience of a race, gender or religion opposite of oneself. So when a playwright, or any artist for that matter, tries to take the daunting task on, he or she has a lot to prove, and Thomas and Perea proved nothing except the fact that even in a show about female pride, the man — and all he does and doesn’t do — is the central force behind a woman’s thoughts and ideas.
Not every woman’s realization of her own agency is a direct result of the oppression of a single man. In fact, that is rarely the case.
Feminism comes to most women in stages and continues to grow and develop into a more established idea as a woman ages.
From the time Tejada’s character is 16 to the time she is middle-aged and in the midst of a divorce, there seems to be no self-realization which makes the end — when Tejada justifies the idea of women being better — seem rushed and almost a hodgepodge of a number of cliche women-empowerment movie endings like “The Color Purple.”
To be fair, Tejada gave a solid performance with the material she was given. She was charismatic and funny and had great pacing — a feat many actors cannot achieve in even the shortest of monologues.
The audience members seemed to get a kick out of some of the character’s tales of being a teenager living in a Catholic household and the guilt that comes with self-discovery, but the other points — the harder and more substantive points — did not stick.