Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Hungry Woman

Play #129 - The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea by Cherrie Moraga

I am not as well versed in Latina writers as I would like to be, so I have been making a concerted effort to broaden my sphere or knowledge and seek out plays by different voices. And this one did not disappoint.

In Moraga's world, we are in a fluid time and place of some dystopian reality: "The near future of a fictional Chicana past." We observe Medea in a prison psychiatric hospital, and we also leap about through time, gathering glimpses of how she ended up there. At this time, the United States has been divided into Gringolandia and Aztlan - the white and Chicano sections of the country. In between the two is Phoenix, AZ - a sort of no-man's land (almost literally) that serves as a "dumping site of every kind of poison and person unwanted by its neighbors." In particular, as far as we are told in this play, those who are dumped here are largely lesbians. Medea and her lover Luna have been exiled here from Aztlan for the last seven years - since Jason discovered them in bed together. The women have with them Medea and Jason's son Chac-Mool (named Adolfo by his father). Now, however, Jason wants to marry a young Apache woman and reclaim his teenage son... and thus the familiar cycle of Medea's tragic choice continues. Surrounding Medea and the other characters are four Aztec warrior women - the Cihuatateo. According to Aztec tradition, childbirth was a battle, and women who went through it were seen as warriors. They act as a chorus - sometimes becoming characters, sometimes chanting and dancing, but always present.

The magic that floats through this world is palpable, and the power of the female body is central to the meaning made by the play. But at the same time, we see the ways in which that power is stifled by patriarchal demands and assumptions. Although this play is over twenty years old, the cry for respect for an intersectional identity is vivid and insistent. And the consequences of refusing to allow a person to be all the things she is, rather than just one of them, are all too real.