Rachel Gonzalez, center, and her cooking school colleagues in "Hungry… (Ed Krieger )
“This is either the longest suicide note in history, or the juiciest, dirtiest, most delicious confession you’ll ever hear,” begins “Hungry Woman” at Casa 0101. Food, family and post-feminist freedom are the chief thematic ingredients in playwright Josefina López's witty, compelling fantasia, and though still refining, it’s perhaps her richest work yet.
Adapted from López's novel, “Hungry Woman in Paris,” this nonlinear account follows outspoken Canela (bravura Rachel González), a Mexican American journalist facing existential meltdown. After her treasured cousin Luna’s death, Canela ends her engagement, embarking on a Parisian journey of self-discovery at cooking school. Back in L.A. the familia, especially her beyond-traditional mother (Linda López, spot-on), decide Canela is loca.
Upending direct and indirect references, from “Babette’s Feast” to many a telenovela, López concocts Canela’s picaresque saga by swirling hunger, sensuality and mortality as metaphoric flavors into her distinctive, socially questioning voice, and finds tasty universality both inside and outside of the Chicano perspective.
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Director Corky Dominguez adroitly blends satire and sentiment, which his capable forces devour with gusto. Anthony Villarreal’s costumes, Bill Reyes’ sound cues and compositions and Sohail e. Najafi’s lighting register effectively on Cesar Holguin’s stark set, with the multi-credited projections invaluable.
González, both gutsy and vulnerable, makes an apt authorial alter-ego against López’s deadpan matriarch and Mary Mendoza’s symbolic La Calaca Flaca, who, like her versatile colleagues, inhales multiple roles. Amber Rivera’s expatriate crony, Ronni Valentine’s acidic aunt and Cameron Moir’s Le Coq Rouge squeeze are representative examples of a wonderful ensemble.
Not every explicated motive, cinematic pause, poetic repetition or cultural signpost is necessary. The script could lose 20 minutes, Act 1 in particular. Yet on its own idiomatic terms, "Hungry Woman" offers a wickedly funny, emotionally acute and spiritually nourishing repast.
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“Hungry Woman,” Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 E. 1st St., Boyle Heights. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 30. Mature audiences. (323) 263-7684 or www.casa0101.org. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.
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