Lipstick Theatre, Northwestern’s student-led feminist theater group, celebrates Latinx culture in Earthquake Chica, written by Anne Garcia-Romero. The show follows the relationship between two Latinx Americans, Esmeralda, played by junior theater major Lauren Gold, and Sam, played by sophomore theater major Rishi Mahesh.
Earthquake Chica is a romantic comedy woven with fundamental questions about love and identity. Esmeralda struggles with her half-Mexican heritage, but she is free-spirited, expressive and seductive. Meanwhile, Sam is a nervous, socially awkward literary accountant, who is passionate about the intersection between language and math. Through their Latinx identities, they spark a connection.
“Even though Latinx plays a huge part in how they relate to the world, I appreciate that this play takes the step forward and is not just like, 'These are two Latinx people,’ but also ‘these are two people, and they also happen to be Latinx,’” said Valen-Marie Santos, dramaturg of the show.
Throughout the show, Sam teaches Esmeralda Spanish, math and Latin American poetry while Esmeralda learns to reclaim her Mexican heritage.
Director Farrah Sklar, a junior theater major, and producer Lucia Boyd, a sophomore RTVF major, said they wanted a show that both promoted diversity within Northwestern’s theater community and was accessible to diverse identities outside of it.
“As soon as I read this play and this fleshed-out character, who struggled with this part of her identity, I knew it was something I wanted to bring to campus," Sklar said, "Not just for people who are half-Latin, but any multi-cultural or mixed backgrounds because it’s a tough thing to navigate."
The show emphasizes story over spectacle and intimacy over theatrics. For nearly two hours, Esmeralda and Sam interact with just each other, while all other people and places are imaginary. The show hinges on the capacity for audience members to invest in the journey of these two characters. Luckily, Esmeralda’s and Sam’s diametrically opposed personalities make for moments of hilarity and tension throughout the show.
One of the highlights of the show is a salsa dance club scene in the second act where Sam attempts to dance. “It’s so fun. We get to adlib and be ourselves and live in the moment,” Gold said.
Mahesh’s favorite scene, however, is the equally hilarious bedroom scene. “You really get to see Sam really breaking out of his shell and you get to see him go into his instincts and impulses,” he said.
The show provides realistic portrayals of mental illness and tackles what it’s like to deal with it in a relationship. Esmeralda has two panic attacks during the show and mentions struggles with binge-eating, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.
“[Mental illness] is something that I struggle with," Sklar said. "When I read the play, to see this character struggling with it so apparently, I think it really validated my experience and can validate the experiences of a lot of other students on campus."
Lipstick Theatre’s mission statement for this season promotes “pleasure, agency and self-definition” for women in theater. Earthquake Chica ultimately centers around a strong woman who strives to makes choices about her identity, her career and her relationship. The play tells women to follow their dreams and men to support them.
“I feel like all of this talk about what feminism theater means can get so wordy and artistically lofty," Boyd said. "I just hope that people of all different identities can come and experience the experiences that [the characters] are going through, but just also enjoy it, and even laugh and escape."
Earthquake Chica is a witty and unique love story that’s worth emotionally investing yourself in. Though Esmeralda and Sam are by no means the perfect pair, their endearing dynamic is enough to both soften your heart and start a conversation about healthy relationships and identity.
Earthquake Chica will play for free at Shanley Pavilion on Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The show features adult language, onstage intimacy, suicidal ideation and mentions of disordered eating and substance abuse.