Sunday, January 11, 2015

Searching for Aztlán—Milagro—SE Portland



“The Stuff that Dreams are Made on…”

This is an original work, written and directed by Lakin Valdez, and will be playing at their space at 525 SE Stark St. through January 17th (then it will go on tour).  For more information, go to their site at www.milagro.org or call 503-236-7253.

The search for the elusive Shangra-La, Camelot, Narnia, Oz, Brigadoon, Neverland, et. al. or, in short, a Garden of Eden, is a universal one.  A magical land where everyone is happy and dreams really do come true.  A place where you are free to live the life you choose.
But, into every Paradise created, there is always a Snake in the grass…a Wicked Witch controlling the winds…a Big, Bad Wolf ready to pounce.  Just when we’ve eased on down that yellow, brick road to those Golden Gates, Reality raises its ugly head.  But, according to a theme of the play, in order to change that Reality, you have to change yourself, and create a new Reality.

The echoing of The Wizard of Oz in this play is deliberate.  It traces the journey of Dolores (Alida Holguín Gunn), a history teacher of Mexican-American Studies in Tuscon, Arizona, circa 2012.  It seems that the powers-that-be want to reduce the Mexican contribution to American History to a mere cipher.  Dolores is not pleased with this outcome but, before she can protest too much, a dust storm arrives and whisks her off to possibly a mythical land call Aztlán.

But, according to some characters she meets along the way, a Dreamer (Angeles Perez Peña), seeking a better world; a Revolutionary (Ajai Terrazas Tripath), wanting to overthrow the old world; and a HighSpanic (Ana Silva), guarding the heartland from intruders, this place is controlled by a Witch, who governs with an iron fist…either her way or the highway.
They eventually reach their destination and, like in its counterpart, garner an audience with the Sun Stone (a phony Wizard).  And her advice does not set well with the troop, for it means taking several steps backward.  The advice and the outcome and a couple of surprise twists in the plot, will have to remain mute in this review, for that is for you to discover.

This production is without a doubt, though-provoking, and will hopefully spurn discussions throughout its own journey.  And yet, it does have a mischievous lilt, a contagious energy, and a bold enthusiasm that propel it forward to be equally entertaining as well.  It is said the “pen is mightier than the sword” and this is a good example of that.  The creator, Valdez, has succeeded in marrying the head and the heart into a digestible food for thought.

The backdrop by Scenic Designer, Sivonna West, is quite impressive and is a work of art in its own right.  And the cast is truly amazing!  Essentially three actors played almost all the supporting characters and in rapid succession, too.  I admire and applaud their efforts, for it is truly a unique ensemble!  And Gunn does a nice job of holding the plot together.  But, to me, Silva stands out in this wonderful cast, with her well-defined and clear definition of the roles she plays.  She obviously has something extra special to offer the production.

It should be noted that the play is presented in Spanish and English.  Although they do a good job of presenting the material so that you really don’t lose track of the story, even if you don’t understand both languages, there were occasional lines in Spanish that were getting laughs from the audience and I felt I might be missing something important.  It just goes to show you that being bi-lingual is definitely an asset.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you
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