Review: The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon Tells a Poetic and Horrific Story About the Fate of Women Journalists

Paulina reviews her memories. Photo by Stephanie Rodrigues. The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon has a poetic title, both in English and in Spanish (Las Delicadas Lagrimas de ls Luna Menguante). Playwright and actor Rebeca Aleman has written an often poetic script about a horrific story of violence against women and, in particular, against women journalists, in a Latin American country. She tells the story of Paulina, a human rights journalist and single mother, who is working to expose the  brutal displacement of indigenous women and about corruption in government, when she is viciously attacked. When we meet Paulina (Aleman), she has come out of a three-month coma and a month of physical therapy. Rodrigo, her friend, colleague and devoted caretaker, is helping her relearn language and life, letter by letter, name by name. Sometimes he reads her poetry by Octavio Paz. Rodrigo is played with warmth and sympathy by Ramón Camín. Aleman and Camín create a powerful personal bond that makes this two-character play, directed by Iraida Tapias, feel like you are watching real life, rather than a story on stage. The cozy setting of Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre enhances this effect. The production by Water People Theater is part of Destinos, the 3rd international Latino Theater Festival. We hear two other voices that ring in Paulina’s mind: her 7-year-old daughter Anabel (Sofia Ybarra) and her mother Antonia (Laura Crotte). Occasional projections tell the backstory and create continuity with news reports of attacks on other journalists—including the 2017 murder of Miroslava Breach Velducea, a journalist for La Jornada in Chihuahua, Mexico. A single mother of two children, she was murdered as she was leaving her home. Breach was known for her reporting on human rights violations, drug trafficking and drug cartels, and government corruption. Photo by Stephanie Rodrigues. Throughout the 90-minute story, Rodrigo coaches Paulina and pushes her to keep trying when she is frustrated. She gradually regains language proficiency and bits of her memory. After Rodrigo reminds her what it means to be a journalist, she says, “To defend the rights of women who lose their children….and of the children who are left motherless. For the families of the disappeared…..For the indigenous people displaced from their lands. For a whole community that demands justice.” And then she says, confused, “Why do I know all this?” Aleman’s performance as Paulina is strong and full of the grief and anger of memory recovery. We hold our breaths with each new revelation. Finally in the last half of the play, when she finds out what really happened on that fateful day, I felt her agony too.  Director Tapias has worked with the two actors to tell this story with profound skill and significance. We also must remember the other violence against women all over the world and especially the feminicides in Juarez, Mexico, dramatized as part of Roberto Bolano’s 2666, the remarkable production staged by Goodman Theatre in 2016. Original music by Lester Paredes and Ludwig Paredes creates a sonic thread of emotion, danger and loss throughout the play, with the help of Maydi Diaz as sound technician. Conchita Avitia’s lighting transitions guide the story from scene to scene. Projections are designed by Stephanie Rodrigues, with scenic design by José Manuel Diaz. Aleman, a native of Venezuela, is founder and executive director of Water People Theater. The company started in New York and Caracas and moved to Chicago in 2012; they continue to work in both the U.S. and Venezuela. Water People has made more than 16 theatrical productions and seven short films in defense of human rights. They have participated in three campaigns for peace and in theater and film festivals in Venezuela, Mexico, Spain and the U.S. The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon by Water People Theater continues through October 13 at the Steppenwolf 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted. Tickets are $25 for performances Thursday-Sunday. Did you enjoy this post? We’d love to hear what you think of our work; take our reader survey here. Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by becoming a patron. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support! 
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Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.