Hispanic theater

Lydia: conflicted, and sensational

From a twisted body and a bittersweet silence, Milagro and playwright Octavio Solis soar into spaces vivid and amazing

In an accident to be explained later, Ceci has lost the following:

Speech. Mobility. Clear eyesight.

Unbeknownst to those around her, she retains:

Compassion, cognition, affection, intimacy, love, trust…and even lust.

That’s the fraught and bittersweet premise of Octavio Solis’s Lydia, the play currently onstage at Milagro that—TL;DR—is amazing.

“Lydia” at Milagro: Maya Malán González is transcendent as Ceci. (Photo © Russell J Young.)

 

 

In a device billed as “magical realism,” Ceci flies from and returns to her twisted body, never venturing further than the things she already knows. She relives a moment of rapture before the accident, she perches beside her family members to assess and console them, she throws herself into her loved ones’ arms as she would if, in reality, she still could. I wouldn’t call this “magical realism,” though as directed by Kinan Valdez and played by Maya Malán González, it does cast a powerful spell. I’d say instead that Ceci straddles two parallel worlds: a corporeal and an emotional plane.

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‘Elliot’: a fertile seed, growing

"A Soldier's Fugue," The opening salvo in Profile Theatre's season of plays by Quiara Alegria Hudes, plants the promise of bigger things

One of the most striking bits of information you’ll encounter if you go to see Profile Theatre’s production of Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue is dropped offhandedly into a program note by artistic director Josh Hecht, who mentions that “there are currently 21.8 million veterans in the United States.” That’s around seven percent of us, as if we’d sent the whole state of Florida, say, off to war — or the entire Northwest plus a chunk of Northern California. Or, to put it in terms that might hit home to 19-year-old Elliot Ortiz, serving in Iraq with the 1st Marine Division, that’s three and a half times the population of greater Philadelphia.

In any case, it’s quite a figure for a nation that thinks of itself as peace-loving, or at least peace-keeping; a peaceful nation ever at war.

Cristi Miles, Anthony Lam (in fatigues), Jimmy Garcia, Anthony Green (far right) in “Elliot.” Photo: David Kinder

The bulk of those veterans still around served in either Iraq, Vietnam or Korea: places — or do we think of them merely as conflicts — that serve as the generational benchmarks for Quiara Alegria Hudes’ play, which was first produced (in a slightly different version) at Portland’s Miracle Theatre in 2005. Inspired by the Iraq War experiences of her own cousin, Hudes presents three generations of men in the same family, examining what they made of their time at war and what that time made of them.

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The beautiful North, and back again

Milagro's "Into the Beautiful North" tells a wild tale of a band of outsiders on a journey to rediscover home

 

Dorothy Gale once said while clicking her heels, “There’s no place like home.” But she had to travel far and wide, down the yellow brick road, through the Emerald City, against all strange odds, to get back where she started and belonged. Milagro Theatre’s Into the Beautiful North is a similarly wild tale of a band of outsiders on a journey to discover that the golden and kaleidoscope-feathered Aztlán, legendary ancestral home of the Aztec peoples, is a state of mind.

Olga Sanchez and Daniel Jáquez direct Karen Zacarías’s new adaptation of Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel by the same name. It’s not magical realism, but it creates a surreal and vivid dreamscape, from the tiny town of Tres Camarones (translated as Three Shrimps), across the Tijuana/United States border, to a brief pit stop in San Diego, through the dusty and dry desert of Nevada (where’s the snow?), Colorado, and a small town named Kankakee, Illinois, with two gazebos donated by David Letterman, and finally back again to Tres Camarones.

Taking a magnificent quest into the beautiful North. Photo: Russell J Young

Taking a magnificent quest into the beautiful North. Photo: Russell J Young

The three heroes are led by Nayeli, played by Michelle Escobar, who on the outside is a pretty but plain girl who waitresses at a cafe with the only internet connection in town. But, as with Dorothy, don’t let appearances fool you: Nayeli has an unbridled imagination. Her best friend, Vampi (Michelle Caughlin), is the small-town Goth chick complete with corset, hot pants, patterned stockings, and maroon black lipstick. Vampi is one of the tale’s least romantic characters, despite her appearance, and adds a little restraint to Nayeli’s stargazing. Tacho (Danny Mareno) is Nayeli’s boss, and one of the last men who live in Tres Camarones. He faces constant tiny aggressions because he’s gay. The exodus of men to the United States has left the fishing village open to threats from narcos and other highway bandidos. Nayeli is inspired by the ’60s classic western film The Magnificent Seven to find seven equal warriors to protect Tres Camarones.

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