child sex trade

Golden cage, broken promises

Olga Sanchez's new play at Milagro looks inside the realities of life on the West Coast child sex-trade corridor



In Olga Sanchez’s new play Broken Promises, Adriana is a whip-smart girl whose broken life becomes entangled with the winding sex-trade corridor known as the West Coast Circuit. Sanchez, back at Milagro, where she was until recently artistic director, and director Francisco Garcia collaborate to remind us that a golden cage is still a cage.

Part mural and part graffiti, scenic designer Tomás Rivero’s stage background has two winged dancing calacas, or skeleton figures, with a banner saying, “It’s not me, es la vida,” winding through their embrace. A grip of blindfolded Ben Franklins shouts out, “In no one we trust.” The stage invokes the moving picture from a freight train, the kind you see lined up in the yards, carrying outlaw messages across the land.

Twisted promises, broken lives. Photo: Sylvia Malan Gonzalez

Twisted promises, broken lives. Photo: Sylvia Malan Gonzalez

At the start of Broken Promises, which is part of the city-wide Fertile Ground festival of new works, a jazz upright bass line quickly moves from a high-society chord to a heavy beat and break. Just as in Sanchez’s script, the furious sounds and story unfold fast, and Garcia’s players move in and out in a perfect tempo. Roman Vasquez’s soundtrack is real. Hip-hop aficionados will recognize and appreciate the cuts he makes: there’s a nod to 1977, the 2010 album from the Chilean political hip-hop star Ana Tijoux. Milagro has carefully linked the sound, script, backdrop, and actors in a detail that constantly echoes the motifs in the play and references them to Latino culture. Sanchez’s dialogue and Garcia’s gentle hand have made a performance that is tangible, but carries the weight of tragedy with a poetic intensity.