Pay a Little, Enjoy a Lot of Drama Tonight at Ochre House's Frida Kahlo Play, Ex Voto

Have a buck? You could see a play tonight. And a good one at that.

The Ochre House theater, Matthew Posey's hothouse of experimental work, is doing a pay-what-you-can performance of its latest, Ex Voto: The Immaculate Conceptions of Frida Kahlo. Actress Elizabeth Evans, looking eerily like the artist, plays the title role in Posey's play about Kahlo's life and her ongoing struggles with men and physical pain.

Part musical, part confessional soliloquy, Ex Voto paints Kahlo into her own paintings via life-sized re-creations of some of her best-known works. A team of local artists worked together to make two- and three-dimensional versions of "Henry Ford Hospital," "The Two Fridas" and "My Nurse." The colorful tableaux, with Evans inserted in them, happen for mere seconds and then disappear. Pure magic.

Actors Trenton Stephenson, Cyndee Rivera, Dante Martinez, Kevin Grammer and Mitchell Parrack, roll in and out of multiple roles, including some puppetry (something Posey puts in nearly every show). Musicians Justin Locklear, Stefan Gonzalez and Delilah Buitrón provide a moody underscore of Mexican folk-infused sounds.

The dreamy style of Ex Voto was inspired by the Mexican tradition of retablos, in which paintings depict prayers and vows. Death is always lurking somewhere on or near Frida Kahlo in this play. Between scenes a death's head puppet-skeleton dances downstage with the beautiful Buitrón. Even the scenery changes feel choreographed into the play, with chairs and tables floating through the air in the hands of the black-clad actors.

There is nudity and profanity in this production, so consider it a mature-audience piece. But as bargains go for good art, Ex Voto gets our vote today.

Ex Voto: The Immaculate Conceptions of Frida Kahlo continues through November 19 at the Ochre House, 825 Exposition Ave. Tickets are $15. Shows are at 8:15 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday. A pay-what-you-can performance is at 8:15 p.m., Monday, November, 14. Box office, 214-826-6273.

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