by Claire DeMarco
Frida Kahlo was an artist, an icon, a feminist, lover, a political activist. She was traditional in native Mexican dress and values yet radical politically, creatively active but physically handicapped.
In “Frida…A Self Portrait,” Vanessa Severo, the actor and playwright, takes us on a journey of Frida’s life from young child to mature adult.
Frida had several tragedies in her life that affected her. When she was six, she contracted polio. At eighteen she was involved in a bus accident that she miraculously survived. As a result, she was in constant pain for the rest of her life. She also noted that another tragedy in her life was her turbulent marriage to husband Diego Rivera.
Although physically limited, painting became her therapeutic with over 100 of her paintings self-portraits (all smile-less). She used her painting as a way to say to the world, I’m still here, I’m strong and I survived.
Note: More people are aware of Frida Kahlo and her work today than they were when she was alive. It’s a shame she didn’t live to see her work fully recognized.
Several times during the production Severo confides to the audience in her natural American accent why she has a kinship with an artist who died years before she was even born. Her interaction with the audience is charming and enlightening.
Severo’s performance as Frida is stunning. She brings out the complexity of Frida’s character. She is energetic, funny, sad, engaging, angry. She does it all (including dancing)! Transitioning easily when she is Diego Rivera, her voice lowers. As her father she again assumes a masculine voice with the necessary accent that voice requires.
The set is simplistic but imaginative. The stage is a huge bed frame that represents the many years Frida was bedridden. Costumes and scenery blend together as the costume-laden clotheslines become an integral part of the story. Excellent Scenic Design by Jacqueline Penrod and Costume Design by Katherine Davis.
Kudos to Director Joanie Schultz.
Don’t miss “Frida…A Self Portrait”
“Frida…A Self Portrait” runs from June 7 – June 25 at the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA. For more information, click here.