Lola Goes to Roma
At SBCC’s Jurkowitz Theatre, Friday, April 28. Shows
through May 13.
Reviewed by Carlos Morton
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and Josefina López of Real Women Have
Curves fame both like to paint intimate self-portraits. “I paint
what I know best,” said Kahlo. Both are strong, independent Latinas
who are (or are becoming) icons. In Lola Goes to Roma,
Roma (delightfully played by Dekyi Rongé) is a stand-in for the
37-year-old author while the mother is based on actress Lupe
Ontiveros, a more mature woman whose sexuality López greatly
admires — “the kind of woman I wanted my mother to be,” she has
When I first heard about the latest Josefina López play, I
thought it would be about a Mexican mother who wanted to go to Rome
to meet the Pope and tour the Vatican. A traditional Catholic
Mamacita Lola is not. Roma is an intelligent and rather mousy
daughter, a recently minted PhD whose siblings pressure her into
taking Lola to Europe, ostensibly to distract her from the death of
her late husband. Lola is portrayed with consummate finesse by
Marina Gonzalez Palmier, and as the plot unfolds we discover that
she has a number of deep, dark, and rich secrets.
The daughter is repressed, incapable of having a good time,
while her mother has to teach her a thing or two about joie de
vivre. Theodore Michael Dolas’s post card-like set, with beds that
pop out like phallic symbols, took us on a lusty romp through
various European cities. The excellent multicultural ensemble,
consisting mostly of Santa Barbara City College students (standouts
are Ben Chang, Benny B. Roa, and Priscilla Oliveria), played
multiple roles and led us on one hilarious adventure after
Originally a screenplay, Lola doesn’t suffer in the
least in this theatrical reincarnation, even with a 29-page script
and some 32 scene changes. Director Katie Laris moves things along
deftly, in a rambunctious, engaging style. What does bog down the
play is the telenovela-like flashback to young Lola’s affair with
an Italian lover. Perhaps the play should be called Lola
Returns to Roma? Also, the numerous dance numbers come across
as extraneous — after all, this is not a musical.
The opening night crowd at the Jurkowitz Theatre seemed to
genuinely enjoy the spectacle, laughing and applauding throughout.
I can’t wait for the movie!