Monday, November 6, 2017

An Enemy of the Pueblo by Josefina López


By Joe Straw

Casa 0101 presents An Enemy of the Pueblo by Josefina López directed by Corky Dominguez and Produced by Emmanuel Deleage & Edward Padilla.

You’ve only got one week to see this outstanding production – a modern adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People. And this adaptation by Ms. López is exceptional; the directing by Mr. Dominguez sublime, and the acting will warm your soul.

From the torrid sky, the rain falls loudly on the town of Milagros, a colonial town, near the United States border.  Tourists from the United States once visited the hot springs before a drug cartel called “Los Sapos” (the frogs) infiltrated the town and people just, stopped, coming.

Magdalena Del Rio (Zilah Mendoza) is the shaman of the pueblo.  Tonight, she walks in the rain to cleanse her sorrows from the past.  She sees beyond now to that of the future, and turning her head, she listens to the woeful cries of mother earth.

“And it is done.” – Magda

Magda falls asleep in her hammock, outside her home, near the tree that has long ago died, and as the branches moan, she is confronted by the ghost of Eugenio (Javier Ronceros), her former husband, who was gunned down months ago and vows to never leave her side.  This is not something Magda is entirely comfortable with.  But one gets the impressions from him that she is still in danger from physical forces around her.

Petra Del Rio (Laura Bravatti) wants to know why her mother, Magda, is holding a conversation with no one around.  Magda says that she is speaking to her father.  Petra does not have the gift and cannot see him.  No matter, she tells him to leave anyway.

There is something wrong with Petra, her hair is falling out, she has pains, and her husband is nowhere to be found. There is a hint that the elements around her are causing her sickness (the water).  Also, she waits impatiently for her husband, Arturo (Joshua Nuñez) to return.  

Later Laura (Angiee Lombana) who is ready to give birth seeks help from Magda and Petra.  Laura holds onto the rope hanging from the dead tree.  There is a short serrated cry as the child comes with little pain, thanks to Magda.  Coming from around the bend Laura’s husband (Joshua Nuñez) presents Magda with a payment, a bottle of liquor for which Magda readily accepts.

The Ghost of El Sapo (Paul Renteria) now enters the scene, his fists tightly clenched, arms restlessly wavering, and posing like an aged body builder that cannot lower his arms any longer.  He demands that Magda release him from these earthly plains.  But, she is not so eager to do so since Sapo killed her husband and she hasn’t figured out what to do with him.   

The mortal townspeople also come to Magda for help. Elvia (Catalina Shoshan), comes next looking for her husband who left a month earlier.  Madga, working her magic, tells her that he is on the other side (el otro lado), he fell in the desert, broke his leg, and ran out of water.  She gives Elvia the co-ordinates of where she can find the body.

“Yes, Milagros will be better now that the narcos are gone.” - Madga

But now when things have settled down and the town needs a new source of revenue. Pedro Del Rio (Arturo Aranda, Jr.), Madga’s twin brother, has greedily sold the fracking rights for his own egoistic means.  

And soon after, the earthquakes come, waking Clarita (Angiee Lombana), Petra’s daughter.  She enters to find the Ghost of Eugenio staring at her.  He smiles a grandfatherly smile as they stand communicating with each other without saying a word.  

At night, Madga lets the atemporal dreams of knowledge take over, the dance of death that ravages her, in the morning she confides to O’Connor (William Jaramillo), who is smitten with her, that the water is poison and that she must warn the town. But how?

Josefina López has written a wonderful show, a delicious shiver that stays with you long after you have left the theatre.  There are similarities to Ibsen’s 1882 play An Enemy of the People mostly having to do with the poisoning of the hot springs and the water of the town. But López has made the main character a Mexican woman, a shaman, and it is her story, her fight against her brother and the men of the town who want to do her an injustice for telling her intuitive truth.  All the women fight their own little battles against the oppressive men in their community. There are surprising similarities to the current political battles against the forces of greed, corruption, and political upheaval.  Still, this show should have a longer life than its four-week run.

Director Corky Dominguez rises to the occasion in this production. There is some fantastic work going on here, characters have depth, objectives are met, relationships are believable.  Dominguez has given life to an excellent show and he does so with a fiery passion.

Some actors are familiar and the others are new but all bring a delightful surprise to Casa 0101. The actors create a core truth to every single character. 

J.D. Mata provides the music for the show including the special sound effects.  His reverberant clangour elevates this show to improbable heights.  The music and sounds create a mood by providing the special music one hears in the quiet moments of life. It was wonderful work created and composed for this show.  He also played Luis and a man in the Pueblo.

Zilah Mendoza does a lot of special work as Magda, capturing a flavor of the shaman, the liquor in her mouth sprayed around the woman giving birth, the cleansing water falling from the sky and from the dead tree all worked.  Mendoza gives a rich history to the character, and the ease of her character seemed effortless.  Magda knows everyone’s business—she feels it in her being.  She moves the town, steers it in the right direction, and fails miserably at almost every turn but manages to fight until the end.   Mendoza’s work was visually an outstanding work of art and a performance not to miss.  

Arturo Aranda, Jr. has a very good look as Pedro, a man who sells the pueblo to the highest bidder.  Pedro, previously injured by a horse, now the mayor, hobbles around.  He walks with his left leg turned inward and his arm clutches his abdomen as though he were in constant pain. Life for him, in all his adamantine glory, is about the money which has gotten him where he is today, supremely unsatisfied. There is something about the character that requires a subtle want, an unconscious objective that takes him to another level.  

Laura Bravatti brings a deeper ambiguous meaning to the character Petra.  There is something going on, in ineffable sadness, but one is not entirely tuned into her character. Perhaps Petra is ill from the water, or perhaps she misses her husband. In any case, it makes for a strong character case study as to what this woman actually wants. Not satisfied at first glance, she gets her husband, but then she doesn’t want him because of his infidelities.  What she wants remains to be seen.  Still, this is an actor who brings a rich history to the character and projects a mystery in character, one that leads to her final objective.

William Jaramillo is O’Connor, the white character in the play.  While he looks Irish, the name suggests otherwise. O’Connor moves fast as the love interest who, try as he might, never gets the girl. Maybe he isn’t trying hard enough, or drinks too much.  What would be the make or break deal to get the girl?  Jaramillo has a very interesting look and does quite well despite not getting what he came for.

Angie Lombana is incredible as Clarita. Lombana is not a child so she gives Clarita the appearance of a woman in a child’s body, clement in nature, a girl with a gift and a mental handicap.  The facial expressions turns her into that person and works perfectly.  This is just great work, all around. Lombana also plays Laura.

Joshua Nuñez inhabits a number of characters as Laura’s husband, Juan Jose, a newspaper reporter, and Arturo. Arturo is Petra’s husband who has been off in the United States making another family.  When he comes back he is a bit of a bully to his wife. Macho, macho man thinks he can come back to his wife and then have her wait on him hand and foot.  Something she is not willing to do. What we really need in this character is to find how the relationship will work, or how it has worked in the past, and how it may work in the future. Nuñez did good work in the other roles and has an outstanding craft and a very interesting look.  

One can appreciate Paul Renteria as the Ghost of El Sapo.  He has a number of moments of being a funny and an unsatisfied ghost, someone who has shaken off his mortal coil and needs help to step into the light. Also as Señor Reyes he employs a southern accent (Tennessee?).  Where and why that happened, one is not truly sure.  Still, some very good work by an actor that brings a lot of humor to the role.

Javier Ronceros brings just the right touch as Ghost of Eugenio and Eugenio (when he was alive and well).  Ronceros, with liquescent eyes, is very low key on stage and doesn’t force any moments, which makes his actions incredible to watch. All around, it was very good work.

Catalina Shoshan is a stunning actor for whom the light shines bright.  She plays Elvia and Doña Campeche and is excellent in those roles.

Marco De León, Set Designer, has created a beautifully shaded brown workable set, an indoor and outdoor space that gives us a time and a place near the border of Mexico.

All of the intangible tangibles that add to the remarkable body of the play and set were created by the follow crew members who did an outstanding job. Kevin Eduardo Vasquez, Lighting Designer, gives us exceptional moments with the lighting, time, and space, Sohail e. Najafi, was the Technical director and Special Effects person, and Masha Tatarintseva, the Video Designer.

Abel Alvarado, Costume Designer, place us in the location with an excellent defined authenticity.

Edward Padilla was the casting director and that job was exceptional.  He also served as the Producer.

Emmaneul Deleage was another producer and is the Casa 0101 Executive Director.

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Laurien Allmon – Stage Manager
Gabriela Pérez – Assistant Stage Manager
Angel Lizarrago – Assistant Director
Julius Bronola – Assistant Costume Designer
Jorge Villanueva – Light Board Operator
Steve Moyer Public Relations – Press Representative
Ed Krieger –Production Photographer
Guadalupe Arellanes – Graphic Design/Casa 0101 Communications and Outreach

This show had a four-week run, which is way too short for this production. 

Run! Run! Run!  And take someone who loves the mystical in all things.

Through November 12, 2017

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