Review: Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way (Chocolate Woman Collective)

By Adelina Fabiano

A chocolate tapestry from the past falls on a Toronto Stage

In Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way, produced by Chocolate Woman Collective, first formed in 2007 by a group of senior Aboriginal artists and scholars to research and create this show, principal actor and playwright Monique Mojica deeply explores her ancestral roots in Panama’s Kuna culture.

Collaborating with a diverse group of people from around the globe, such as visual artists (Oswaldo DeLeón Kantule, Erika Iserhoff), anthropologist (Brenda Farnell) and composer (Marden Paniza), Mojica integrates information and research from archives and seeks the expertise of Indigenous scholars. She reclaims and re-creates the struggle and beauty of the Indigenous culture through a dynamic and dramatic display of physical theatre.

Poetically written, passionately performed, rich in content and history; Mojica unravels a creation story of a Kuna woman falling with Sky woman on to the Turtle’s back, like an “Alice-down-rabbit-hole” story, into retellings of cultural folklore, personal stories and that of real Kuna history.

On this one hour long journey, she encounters powerful female characters from the Kuna cosmology, mostly played by Mojica herself. Joining forces in Mojica’s storytelling, is her real-life mother Gloria Miguel, narrating in the voice of her ancestors.

The stage is adorned with three colourful art panels draped from the ceiling displaying powerful Kuna women whom Mojica integrates and refers to throughout the story.

Co-set designers Oswaldo DeLeon Kantule and Erika Iserhoff also brilliantly blend various props onto their mystical stage such as a rolled up hammock that Mojica repeatedly hooks and unhooks.

Directed by Jose A. Colman, also the first professionally trained Guna actor in Panama, Colman clearly brings his own personal passion and connection to the work which is seen in his intricate weaving of all the combined elements that make this show.

Mojica whole heartedly, emotionally and physically, embodies the spirit of the Indigenous past through her intense vocal expression and energetic, organic and “Laban” inspired movement.

Intelligent, complex, thought provoking, visually engaging and innovatively performed, Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way is an original piece of work that explores indigenous arts, culture and history with depth and honesty.

My guest and I came to this show knowing very little about Kuna culture, but we leave with a bit more insight, appreciation and respect for the need to preserve and maintain the traditions and necessity of oral storytelling which is so much at the heart of this production and whose story would otherwise be lost.

Details

-The show will run from Thursday June 2nd, 2011 to Sunday, June 19th, 2011 at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse at the University of Toronto. Thursday through Saturday shows start at 8pm, Sunday shows start at 2pm.

-Regular tickets are $20.Student/Senior Tickets are $10.

-Tickets can be purchased through TO tix or online at http://www.totix.ca/ or at the door.

-Tickets may be reserved by calling 647-717-6129 or emailing wnanibush@gmail.com


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