What's compelling is Sanchez's juxtaposition of two Hispanic stereotypes: the good girl, a grown woman who still lives with her parents and is afraid to venture outside their safety net; and the bad girl, who grew up in gangs and is comfortable with confrontation. Not only that, but he allows them to duke it out with each other. When Hispanic women (in fact, most women, come to think of it) appear in plays, they tend to be delineated by the men in their lives -- not by other women. "I used to get beat up by girls like you," says one woman to another, dusting off an age-old, girls'-locker-room truth that still feels fresh.

If nothing else, Sanchez gives us a chance to wonder if these two seemingly disparate people have anything in common. The women play each other expertly. De Acha sets them up in two intense physical contests, one an arm wrestling competition, the other a kids' clapping game. Equally powerful is the verbal sparring. "Is that your hair color or is that just a feeble stab at assimilation?" says Fatima to the middle-class lawyer. Better educated but not above insults, Maritza replies: "Did you like wearing that funny paper hat to work?" These are fighting words, for sure, words that -- in a better play -- could open up brave new worlds.

Unmerciful Good Fortune.
Written by Edwin Sanchez. Directed by Rafael de Acha. Starring Chris Brown, Iris Delgado, Ramon Gonzalez-Cuevas, Larry Jurrist, Margot Moreland, and Edna Schwab. Through May 24. New Theatre, 65 Almeria Ave, Coral Gables, 305-443-5909.

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