Explicit, provocative, misunderstood…Colombia. In this cultural explosion of a play “Another Word for Beauty,” playwright Jose Rivera takes the audience, in the Goodman Theatre through the tough, segregated life within Buen Pastor, a women’s prison, with the help of some Latin tunes and scattered flashbacks of how the women ended up in prison in the first place.
Though many people, especially women, assume beauty pageants to be pointless or shallow, a beauty pageant’s significance becomes more clear as Rivera uses it to give the women in Buen Pastor, who have lost everything, something to strive for: hope, a future. This metaphorical fog from the seductive, shiny attire cannot completely restrict the short outbursts of reality that interfere with the contestants’ sense of hope and pageant glamour. Rivera captures what it truly means to be both the criminal and the victim, and the corrupt societal consequences in which lead to something like a pageant being the only joy or purpose in a woman’s life here in Buen Pastor other than the long wait to be reunited with family.
Yes, the corrupted Colombian judicial system, in which a fight in the streets could get you more than six years in prison, is a social issue addressed in which a solution at this point of damage seems almost impossible, yet the glimpse of reflection among these young, good hearted, and regretful women portray the potential Colombia has to become better even if it starts with a beauty pageant in a women’s prison.
In the end, Rivera communicates the most important message of all through, the underdog, Luzmery (as played by Danaya Esperanza): “There is no other word for beauty”.