Frida Kahlo had a moustache, which is awesome. Wait, let me rephrase: Kahlo's refusal to hide her moustache (or her unibrow) in her self-portraits was awesome. Kahlo's surreal paintings are still some of the most striking works of the 20th century, due to Kahlo's sheer personality and confidence.
Maya Malán-González plays Kahlo in Frida, Un Retablo, and she does not have a moustache. (Kahlo's more socially acceptable unibrow, however, remains firmly in place.) But that's a jumpable hurdle considering the charm Malán-González brings—true, she never seems quite mature or troubled enough to have created Kahlo's work, but Malán-González still holds this sometimes disjointed play together.
A Cliffs Notes synopsis of Kahlo's life, Frida, Un Retablo ("retablo" translates to "altarpiece") clocks in at a brisk hour and 15 minutes. Playwright Dañel Malán has designed Frida as a traveling production, which explains director Olga Sanchez's decisions to keep the pace lightning quick and the set design spartan. But Frida moves so quickly that little depth is given to the proceedings.
Occasionally adding to the confusion is the fact that Frida is bilingual; dialogue is dashed off, half in English and half in Spanish. It's to the cast's credit that this potentially alienating approach isn't too distracting—within a few minutes, mono-lingual audience members will begin using context to fill in the story's blanks. And for the most part, the small cast is quite solid: Omar Vargas plays Kahlo's philandering husband, muralist Diego Rivera, with blustery charm, while Matthew Preston lightens things up with broad comedic strokes. Aside from a few ill-advised histrionics and some clunky phrasing, the cast largely does what they can with the material.
But ultimately, Malán's script moves a bit too quickly and far too superficially. Even the play's most interesting tactic—in which Malán plays an older, more jaded Kahlo, who argues with her younger self—ends up feeling awkward and rushed. Like most things in Frida, it's a good, well-intentioned idea—and one that would have benefited enormously from the chance to slow down a little.