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Missionaries

Conceived, composed and directed by:Elizabeth Swados
Lighting:Beverly Emmons
Costumes:Kaye Voyce
Opened:11/97 at the Majestic Theater
Cast:Dorothy Abrahams, Vanessa Aspilaga, Carrie Crow, Josie de Guzman, Pierre Diennet, Marisa Echeverria, Abby Freeman, Peter Kim, Gretchen Lee Krich, Fabio Pollanco, Nick Petrone, Heather Ramey, Nina Shreiber, Tina Stafford, Rachel Stern and Amy White

The kindly nuns of this play glow with compassion and devoutness in memory of a lay missionary and three nuns who were murdered in El Salvador in 1980. In fact, Swados cobbles the libretto from a variety of sources, including the diaries of the slain women and the sermons of slain Salvadorean archbishop, Oscar Romero. Performed without props or scenery, this primitive production relies on the voices of the nuns and a chorus of Salvadorean peasants who unite with the American church-women in resistance to a brutal government. However, the musical's bottomless earnestness detracts from its believability. Simply put, there's too much singing. The recitatives are labored, the lyrics ramble and the harmonies grate the nerves. De Guzman emerges poignantly as a lullaby-crooning Salvadorean woman, but ultimately, the lighting steals the show. No amount of mumbled prayers can save this well-intentioned effort.