Review: ‘Dorothea Puente Tells All’ at California Stage Co.
Dorothea Puente Tells All
As you enter The Wilkerson Theatre for Dorothea Puente Tells All, you notice a small, white-haired lady coyly mingling with guests in the lobby, projecting sly, unnerving smiles and eyes that are forever checking everyone out. When the play starts, here comes the same red-coated woman onstage, who introduces herself to the audience as the misunderstood Dorothea Puente, Sacramento's most notorious serial murderer.
From the very start, actress Janis Stevens totally and convincingly transforms herself into Puente, always juggling an unassuming, manipulative manner that veiled a damaged, evil spirit. She's aided by a carefully orchestrated script by playwright Mark Loewenstern, who skillfully tap dances through the many conflicting layers of Puente.
Puente is joined onstage by a lineup of characters whose lives she intersected with, as well as those whose lives she callously took in the early 1980s. We meet the people in the Hispanic community she socialized with, the vulnerable people she eventually killed and the social worker who eventually uncovered Puente's horrendous deeds.
In the end, Dorothea Puente Tells All manages to peel back a bit of Puente's facade, but her lack of compassion, humanity and repentance still remains an enigma.
It's quite telling how so many Sacramentans feel a connection to the Puente story—this debut production by California Stage is already completely sold out for its five-week run. And when she is brought up in conversations, it seems everyone has a Puente story—an uncle who drank with her at a local bar, a connection to one of the deceased, the horror of watching the horrible details unfold on local media and now as a Sacramento story onstage.