‘Real Women’ has verve at LB Playhouse

By Neena Strichart

Kari Veenas (Pancha), Teresa Rios (Ana), Roxanne Martinez (Carmen), Linda Viramontes (Estela), and Amy Paloma Welch (Rosa) in Real Women Have Curves.

Kari Veenas (Pancha), Teresa Rios (Ana), Roxanne Martinez (Carmen), Linda Viramontes (Estela), and Amy Paloma Welch (Rosa) in Real Women Have Curves.

The opportunity to review a production at the Long Beach Playhouse (LBPH) is usually a treat, especially when I take along my favorite date, my mother. We were so looking forward to the latest play, billed as a comedy, called Real Women Have Curves. Both being full-figured gals, we were hoping for an evening of entertainment, not put-downs of ladies who are a bit on the fluffy side. We were not disappointed. Entertained we were, to say the least.
The combination of the five-member, all-female cast portraying Latina sewing factory co-workers and the barely changing small-workplace set made for a quick, intimate rapport between the audience and the players. The warm and realistic relationships were believable and kept us all engaged as there were no complicated backstories to figure out, nor distractions from elaborate prop or scene changes.
My only wish was for a better understanding of the Spanish language since many of the real comedic moments relied on the audience’s ability to read gestures and guess what the actors were saying as they lovingly teased one another in Spanish. True, words aren’t always important to express oneself, but in this case I think translation would have been helpful and would have allowed the audience to have been even more entertained.
The storyline alone is captivating. Five Latina women work hard to keep their jobs at a small East Los Angeles sewing factory while fighting unrealistic deadlines imposed by high-end designers. Besides struggling at work, the players deal with health troubles, self-image issues, financial hardships and love-relationship issues. What seems to keep them going is being able to deal with life through love and laughter and the support of one another.
Comedic moments such as the ladies stripping down to their slips and underwear to compare stretch marks, etc. and the automatic response of hiding from the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service)– even though they are all (except one) finally in the possession of green cards– share the emotions of the characters with the audience.
In my opinion, the real star of the show was Roxanne Martinez who played Carmen, the matriarch of the group. Her character’s harsh exterior working overtime trying to hide the real kindness of her soul reminds me a bit of the gal who play’s George’s mother Benny on the old George Lopez television show, along with a sprinkle of my angelic hairdresser Leah Farris’s personality thrown in for good measure. What a combination. During the intermission I met one of Roxanne’s day job co-workers. He shared his excitement over seeing “Roxy” up onstage and told how professional she is in her nursing career. Looks like she has quite a fan base.
All in all, the show is a “do-over,” my late stepfather’s way of saying something is worth seeing again. The ladies put on one heck of a show.
Real Women Have Curves continues on the Long Beach Playhouse Studio stage through May 15. Ticket prices are $22 general admission; $20 for seniors (60+); $12 for students with valid student ID. Performances are 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 2pm. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (562) 494-1014 ext. 1 or at lbplayhouse.org. The Long Beach Playhouse is located at 5021 E. Anaheim St.

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