Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Every bone tells a story.
It is a myth I first became aware of through Clarissa Pinkola Estés who tells the story of a wolf woman from the deserts and mountains of Northern Mexico, a collector of bones, who resurrects the wild spirit of life from the depths of the Underworld.
It is said La Loba lives among the rotten granite slopes in Tarahumara Indian territory. They say she is buried outside Phoenix near a well. She is sometimes seen traveling south to Monte Alban in a burnt-out car with the back window shot out. She occasionally stands by the highway near El Paso, or rides shotgun with truckers to Morelia, Mexico, or that she will walk to market above Oaxaca with strangely formed boughs of firewood on her back. She is called by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, The Gatherer; and La Loba, Wolf Woman.
Written, choreographed and performed by American storyteller Imani G. Alexander, Bone Woman is a new original play adapted from Irish, Gullah, Mexican-American and Inuit folklore. These are tales of courage and sacrifice, perseverance and renewal – as told by the women whose voices reach from beyond the veil.
Imani G. Alexander’s is an engaging rendition of this tale as she deliciously deep dives into a variety of oddities of this ancient, eccentric, cackling, matron listening to all the spirits throughout the hot desert days, picking up their signals on the wind like an antenna receiver tapping into airwaves.
As she trances, an array of spirits emerge and relate often fantastical tales of their lives, all embedded with a hint of their own personal mythologies. But La Loba’s purpose is not to just help them by listening or talking. By collecting a full set of wolf bones she is able to bring one of these spirits, these women, back to life as a dual wolf/wild woman so she can ultimately be released from pain and finally be free.
This production is incredibly intense and detailed. Alexander is a deft character actress who offers a truly spirited presentation that fleshes out many of the details of the Bone Woman’s work. The only drawback is a lack of much-needed accompaniment of visual effects for the finale of this play justice.
Otherwise, it’s a fascinating, comically titillating piece.