A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story, a multi-award winning work by Evelina Fernández is fiercely ambitious, thoroughly and intelligently mounted on a slick two tiered set by Francois-Pierre Couture, artistically lit by Pablo Santiago, surfeit of great singing and talented actors such as Robert Beltran, Sal Lopez and Ella Saldaňa North and no doubt will be a huge hit with the home team crowd.
But underneath all the sizzle and steam it’s hard to find any meat in the skillet.
With a running time of six hours the play is being presented on two separate nights or for those with the stamina as a single presentation with dinner break.
The trilogy breaks down into:
Faith, Jerome, Arizona 1915, 1940-1944.
Hope, Phoenix, Arizona 1960-1963.
Charity, Los Angeles, California 2005
The most solid writing is in the last installment, Charity.
The problem for me begins with the avalanche of characters we’re introduced to at the very start. Rather than layering them on, Fernández (who plays Grandmother, Lupe, Mari, Gina over the three segments) masses them on stage too quickly for any identification or commitment to develop on behalf of the audience.
The problem continues with the second offering, Hope, as actors now shift into the children or grandchildren of this sister or that sister.
The closing segment, Charity, presents less difficulty primarily because the characters from Hope are carried over giving us a continuity of personalities only with different actors now playing the characters’ older selves.
Music runs throughout the three pieces, songs from the periods (for the most part) are given solid staging by the cast and provide a counterpoint to the business on stage and are perhaps the saving grace of the show.
Fernández’s problem is not that she has nothing dramatic to give, but too much.
There are a multitude of motifs, story lines and characters working against each other.
“The women of this family cannot lie. It is our curse.” We hear this sporadically, yet never see it deeply entwined into the narrative.
Then there is the author’s message about the investment of self worth –
“You are the result of a choice or – “ or something like that, I can’t remember the rest, which is funny because it was repeated ad nausea without much point, and it was that repetition that pushed it out of my consciousness.
As a panorama I found the piece wanting.
Too little real history (okay, a personal peeve) other than a toss away remark about one of the brothers riding with Zapata.
Characters vanish with story lines in tow, and never did the piece take a stand as to what it proposes to be:
Pennies From Heaven (the British series!)
The cast and crew are up to any challenge thrown at them however, with the best work being done in the closing third of the piece.
Geoffrey Rivas in Hope menaces as the abusive Charlie, then charms us in Charity as the hair dresser Bobby, the young son played by Kenneth Miles Ellington Lopez (yes, that’s one actor) who he had bullied as Charlie in Hope.
As the star-crossed lovers in Hope, one of the more compact story lines, Ella Saldaňa North and Sal Lopez are effective and moving, Lopez is less so in Charity when he has to stand around as the ghost of a dead priest.
In Hope Olivia Cristina Delgado brings some lightness to the work’s tone, and in Charity North again has moments as the floozy older Betty, though the switch in performers was more confusing than necessary.
In Charity Fernández has her best moments opposite Robert Beltran displaying the same commitment to his craft that made his Hamlet a number of years back such a pleasure to watch.
Tickets for the production are offered for first half, second half and full trilogy.
The First Half takes us from the Mexican Revolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Second Half from the Kennedy assassination to the death of Pope John Paul I.
If under a time or budget constraint, I’d suggest the Second Half, comprising all of the play Charity, which was the first written, and is for my money the most grounded of the works, the other two feeling like weak appendages to me.
Now despite all my nits and picks, the audience I sat with was wildly enthusiastic.
Even my lovely wife Marlene (nee Gutierrez) found the show moving, though also over long and somewhat confusing.
So here’s the deal –
A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story is a good ol’ fashion fire work show.
Bright, loud, colorful, exciting, impressive.
You’ll find all that on stage at the Los Angeles Theatre Center’s Tom Bradley Theater.
Just don’t go looking for anything after the smoke clears
The playwright’s “loving husband” José Luis Valenzuela directs quite lovingly.
* * *
Latino Theater Company presents
A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story
• Thursdays at 8 p.m. (Part A: Mexican Revolution to Cuban Missile Crisis):
Sept. 8 (preview), 15 (opening), 22, 29; Oct. 6
• Fridays at 8 p.m. (Part B: assassination of JFK to death of Pope John Paul II ):
Sept. 9 (preview), 16 (opening), 23, 30; Oct. 7
• Saturdays at 5 p.m. (Part A): Sept. 10 (preview), 17, 24; Oct. 1, 8
• Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. (Part B): Sept. 10 (preview), 17, 24; Oct. 1, 8
• Sundays at 3 p.m. (Part A): Sept. 11 (preview), 18, 25; Oct. 2, 9
• Sundays at 6:30 p.m. (Part B): Sept. 11 (preview), 18, 25; Oct. 2, 9
Los Angeles Theatre Center
Tom Bradley Theater
514 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles CA 90013
• To purchase tickets, call (866) 811-4111 or
• for a complete schedule and tickets go to www.thelatc.org
• For group sales, call (213) 489-0994