By Holli Harms

LAS BORINQUEÑAS by Nelson Diaz-Marcano is a must-see for everyone. It is the story of how the birth control pill came to be and how it was tested on women in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. Women who were living in a culture of male dominance held, above all, the unspoken rule that the female’s role in the family is to keep the home clean and make babies. Abortions were illegal in the 50’s and some women, now with more children than they could handle, were forced into back alleys to end their pregnancies. Many of them died at the hands of the butchers.

The play is the story of four friends who try to follow the rules of the male-dominated world. That world is wonderfully told through Radio Broadcaster ( Mike Riveria Smith). He sets up the story and shows up when needed to comment on what is happening and remind us of how life was for women in the 50s, commenting on inventions like the microwave making the woman’s job easier, “There is no woman luckier than the American woman.” Making sure we understand where women were placed in society at that time, behind the man. It took years for the pill to be perfected and with the help of the Broadcaster and wonderful black and white projections we are carried through those years, what was happening in the United States and the world.

Photo By Valerie Terranova

It is also the story of Gregory Pincus, (Paul Niebanck) the creator of the birth control pill, and his collaborator Edris Rice-Wray. (Hanna Cheek) Rice-Wray was in Puerto Rico as a Medical Director for Puerto Rico Planned Parenthood. She collaborated with Pincus “…on the trials of oral contraceptives on Puerto Rican women.” They brought what some called the miracle pill to the women of Puerto Rico. And as with most things, it was not perfect. There were painful side effects and the possibility of death. There were risks, but the freedom and the control the pill brought outweighed the risks. Pincus’ wife, Lizzie ( Helen Coxe) poses the question of morality. The question of morality for the doctors, the nurses, and all those administering the pills to the women of Puerto Rico. She knows that this weighs heavy on them but she also knows that in the end, this one pill will change the life of all women including her daughter.  They must push on.

Photo by Valerie Terranova

Playwright Diaz-Marcano introduces us to five friends, Yolanda (Guadalís Del Carmen), Rosa (Maricelis Galanees), Fernanda (Maribel Martinez), Chavela (Nicole Betancourt), and Maria ( Ashley Marie Ortiz), all trapped in the cycle of marriage, pregnancy, and the imposed worship of the man. Two of the women, Fernanda and Maria, have been in love since childhood, but that love is not allowed. That is love that will find them separated and beaten by their families. Now both are in loveless marriages trying to live a lie. They are five strong captivating women that we the audience are rooting for. The complications of their lives, the strength of their friendships, their joy and laughter, and their desire to be in charge of their bodies are all beautifully written and performed.

This is a tight, strong, remarkable cast, and the staging, by Rebecca Aparicio, is directed as a dance of both struggle and joy for the senses.

What is frightening, is that here it is 60 years later and we women are still fighting the battle over control of our bodies!

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Latinx Playwrights Circle, and Boundless Theatre Company present The world premiere of LAS BORINQUEÑAS written by Nelson Diaz-Marcano and directed by Rebecca Aparicio at Ensemble Studio Theater.

With: Nicole Betancourt, Hanna Cheek, Helen Coxe, Guadalís Del Carmen, Maricelis Galanes, Maribel Martinez, Paul Niebanck, Ashley Marie Ortiz, and Mike Smith Rivera.

Creative Team: scenic design by Gerardo Díaz Sánchez; costume design by Tina McCartney; lighting design María Cristina Fusté; projections design by Milton M. Cordero; sound design by Daniela Hart, Bailey Trierweiler, Noel Nichols, and Uptown Works; and props design by Caitlyn Murphy. Alejandra Maldonaldo Morales is the production stage manager.

Tickets for LAS BORINQUEÑAS are $30 for general admission, $40 for reserved seating, and $25 for students/seniors.  Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) is located at 545 West 52nd Street.

Get Tickets For the show NOW Extended to MAY 5th  HERE

LAS BORINQUEÑAS  EST’s long-time home on West 52nd Street

Running Time: 2 Hours with one Intermission