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That Teatro de la Luna’s production of Frida Kahlo: La Pasión feels more like devout hagiography than historical biography shouldn’t come as any real surprise—that title ain’t exactly subtle. But neither is it particularly accurate: Although there’s plenty of big-P passion to go around (the litany of causes responsible for Kahlo’s physical suffering unto death is dramatized with great care), there’s a profound lack of the lowercase variety. The tone’s all solemn nobility and hushed deference, and the actors, though perfectly fine, carry themselves with a uniformly cool bearing that serves to slow the pace and make the two-hour running time feel even longer.
It’s a remarkably juiceless business in the end, which is puzzling, given the show’s notably strong-willed and tempestuous subject. But director Mario Marcel places equal weight on every scene, and the play’s many dream sequences, which take place in a vague, cluttered area behind an upstage scrim, never cohere.
The evening’s most powerful moment—and to be fair, it works very nicely indeed—occurs in the last act, as slides of Kahlo’s paintings are projected above the artist (Anabel Marcano) as she lies on her deathbed. It’s only then, when the play manages to get out of its own way for a moment, that we manage to catch a real glimpse of the raw and uncompromising energy that Kahlo possessed.