Review: ‘God’s Gypsy’ at Lillian Theatre provides fleeting rapture


In “God’s Gypsy,” now at the Lillian Theatre, playwright and performer Coco Blignaut dramatizes the life of St. Teresa of Ávila, the 16th-century Spanish nun known for her ecstatic visions (the most famous starred a handsome angel who pierced her heart with a flaming sword). Targeted by the Spanish Inquisition and accused of blasphemy, hysteria and demonic possession, she nonetheless persevered in reforming the Carmelite order and establishing monasteries around the world.

This world premiere begins with appropriately bliss-inducing original music by violinist/vocalist/composer Lili Haydn (who performed live on opening night), while nuns emerge from the mist on scenic designer/director Joel Daavid’s gorgeous deconstructed cloister set. My response was the reviewer’s equivalent of a spiritual visitation: the premonition of great theater.

But three hours later, my rapture had faded. Like so many otherworldly voices, “God’s Gypsy” doesn’t make good on its promise.


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Blignaut plays Teresa with obvious affection as, initially, a breathless, wide-eyed woman-child in thrall to her private cosmology, and later, a worldly entrepreneur. But her script, based on the biographical novel “Sister Teresa” (its author, Bárbara Mujica, worked with Blignaut), tries to cover too much material.

Perhaps as a result, the storytelling lacks focus, and the secondary characters are drawn cartoonishly (“I’m in cahoots with the Inquisition!” proclaims Teresa’s evil foil, Father Braulio, played by Daniel DeWeldon).

Blignaut introduces us to the young Teresa through the gossip of three seamstresses (Carole Weyers, Abbe Rowlins and Jeanne Witczak). Because Javier (Edison Park), the fiancé Teresa jilted for the cloister, plays a role in her later life, it would be helpful to meet him at this point and get a glimpse of their youthful relationship. Without this setup, his eventual appearance feels kind of random.

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The seamstresses, meanwhile, prove completely irrelevant — although the same three actresses later ham it up as aristocratic ladies. These clownish, peripheral episodes are so tonally dissonant from the harrowing scenes in which Teresa’s friend Sister Angelica (Tsulan Cooper) is raped and tortured that they could be separate plays.


Holy visions arrive perfect, but plays sometimes need revising and cutting. Somewhere in “God’s Gypsy” lurks a powerful drama, which a narrower focus, some tonal adjustments and a few more drafts might set free.


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“God’s Gypsy.” Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays. Ends Jan. 12. $30. (866) 811-4111 or Running time: 3 hours.