Fragmented Frida at BAM
By Eric J. Grimm
Andrea Dantas’ one woman show Fragmented Frida, now playing at BAM, dives deep into the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, detailing her struggles with disability and a lifetime of disappointments from her family, lovers, and tormentors. Perhaps assuming that Kahlo’s professional accomplishments are well known or easily researched, Dantas, as directed by Christine Renee Miller, is determined to exclusively show the audience who Frida is as a person who deals systematically with what happens to her as opposed to what she does. By breaking the wall between performer and audience, she demands an emotional connection to her subject and sometimes succeeds. Here is a committed performer with undeniable passion for her character, but who almost exclusively views her through her reactions to traumatic life events. Frida’s soul is elusive for Dantas, a writer and performer who’s looking for the artist’s personality in all the wrong places.
Dantas appears a capable actor; she communicates outrage and joy effortlessly as her character experiences a wide range of victories and failures. Here, she’s presented herself the challenge of playing Frida Kahlo at various points in her life where a greater and more rewarding challenge would have been to have her reflect on her past at one age looking both backward and forward. By starting at the beginning, Dantas introduces Kahlo as a gawky child and can never shake that initial interpretation. Frida doesn’t evolve into a strong figure who perseveres rather than enduring her physical and emotional travails.
As author, Dantas has chosen to focus solely on Kahlo’s relationships to her family, friends, and adversaries. It’s a missed opportunity. The solo show format affords her the possibility of exploring her subject as an individual, something the show only touches on at the very end. Dantas’ commitment is undeniable and one hopes that she’ll revisit Frida at some point, seeing her as a strong, if complicated figure who is more than events that happened to her.
Fragmented Frida plays at BAM Fisher (321 Ashland Place) through April 16th. For tickets, visit http://www.fragmentedfrida.com.