In the Time of the Butterflies: Trampled underfoot

Patria (Adlyn Carreras), Minerva (Claudia de Vasco), Maria Teresa (Thallis Santesteban) and Dede (Maggie Bofill).
Patria (Adlyn Carreras), Minerva (Claudia de Vasco), Maria Teresa (Thallis Santesteban) and Dede (Maggie Bofill).
Photo by Rich Ryan
For three decades, from 1930 to 1961, Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic, creating a brutal dictatorship where life for everyday citizens was full of fear. His rule eventually ended with an assassin's bullet (though the political damage would continue for years), but not before numerous lives were ruined.

In the Time of the Butterflies is a series of snapshots of those years, seen through the lens of the Miribal Sisters, four women who fought against the regime, with three of them murdered for their efforts. The play, adapted from Julia Alvarez's novel, is best at bringing the texture of living under the regime to life.

Caridad Svich's (who also wrote script for The House of the Spirits, which played at Mixed Blood in 2010) mostly runs into trouble in a framing device where a modern-day author (Hope Cerventes) visits with the surviving sister, Dede (Maria Gonzalez), who then travels into her own memories. These moments often feel stilted and seemingly there to just bridge gaps in the narrative than for any overwhelming dramatic need.

Director Jose Zayas has a strong connection to the material -- his family came from the Dominican Republic -- and led the original Spanish-language production at the Repertorio Español in New York City. For the Mixed Blood production, the Spanish-language play has been transformed into a bilingual piece.

In the end, I wish it was all in Spanish. The rules for when characters speak in English or Spanish aren't consistent, and a lot of the English dialogue sounds forced and stilted. Svich was often reaching for something poetic, but it ends up just sounding unnatural.

The four actors  (Adlyn Carreras, Claudia de Vasco, Thallis Santesteban, Maggie Bofill) playing the sisters -- including the young Dede -- do good work throughout. They build some bonds, and are more than willing to show the characters at loggerheads. Raul Romas takes on a number of roles, including the creepy dictator -- a slap from one of them at a party is what puts the sisters in his targeting sights -- and the doomed driver who takes the three sisters on the fateful ride in 1960.

Dede's survival -- she was the most hesitant of the sisters to join the struggle and chose not to join them that day -- is an intriguing piece of the puzzle. Gonzalez and Bofill (the young Dede) carry that out well, bringing an extra, much-needed dimension to the show.


In the Time of the Butterflies
Through April 27
7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays
Mixed Blood Theatre
1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis
Free, first-come, first-served basis at the theater. $20 to reserve seats
To reserve seats or for more information, call 612.338.6131 or visit online.

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Mixed Blood Theatre

1501 4th St. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55454


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