By: Paulanne Simmons
Considering how few women, until modern times, have become artists, it’s easy to see why Frida Kahlo is such a fascinating figure. Not only is Kahlo noteworthy for her self-portraits that link pre-Columbian and Christian symbols, she was also praised by the likes of André Breton who considered her a feminine force within the Surrealist Movement. And she was the wife of the famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.
But Kahlo’s personal life has piqued our interest almost as much as her art. After her death, she became the subject of a biopic, three fictional novels, a ballet and two operas, as well as several plays.
The newest dramatization of Kahlo’s life is Andrea Dantas’ one-woman show, Fragmented Frida, directed by Christine Renee Miller and Jim Parrack. The show begins with Kahlo as an unhappy, crippled girl who is mocked for her disabilities and her Jewish heritage. In the absence of friends, young Frida plays with her dolls in loving and imaginative ways.
Next we see Frida as a revolutionary student whose activities are cut short by a near fatal bus accidents. It is then that her father gives her a paint set to keep her busy and Frida discovers her talent.
A while later she discovers Rivera. Rivera encourages her art. At the same time his various infidelities cause her great pain. But despite physical distress and emotional anguish, Kahlo perseveres. She examines her life with the same objective eye that judges her work.
With the help of videos, cast on the walls of her childhood home, and the offstage voices of Nelson Rockefeller, Georgia O’Keefe, journalists, paparazzi and her friends and family, we can picture Kahlo in Mexico and New York City, at home and in the hospital, with her mother and with Rivera. But it is mostly Dantas’ skill as an actor that makes Kahlo come to life.
Dantas, who is not only an actress and a director but also a Flamenco dancer, knows how to make movement count as much as voice. Her portrayal of Kahlo is deeply physical as well as emotional.
Despite it’s title, Fragmented Frida gives us an extremely coherent image of a very complicated woman.
Fragmented Frida was performed at BAM Fisher at 321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn. After a very short run, hopefully it will come back or find a new home.